ARTHUR POOLE & C(
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
PARIS LAW COURTS^
SKETCHES OF MEN AND MANNERS
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY
GERALD P. MORIARTY, B.A.
Balliol College, Oxford
5 SEELEY AND CO., LIMITED
ESSEX STREET, STRAND
THE French work entitled Le Palais de Justice de Paris was
written in collaboration by certain members of the " Association
de la Presse Judiciaire," or Association of Journalists attached to
the Paris Law Courts. Their object was to describe, for the
general as opposed to the purely legal inquirer, the organisation
and procedure of the Paris Law Courts, the history and customs
of the Paris Bar, and the psychological aspect of that varied
world whom interest or necessity attracts, day by day, to the
Parisian" Palace of Justice.
The greater part of the work is here translated. In place of
the detailed account of the old French legal system and the
archaeology of the Palais de Justice with which the French work
begins, I have given a short explanatory sketch of the whole
French judicial system as it now is.
The differences between French and English law are so
numerous and fundamental that it has been difficult to adopt
a uniform rule in the translation of French technical terms.
Where a French institution occurs to which England contains no
parallel, it has been thought best to retain the original term.
Occasionally, e.g. in certain special cases of procedure, a paraphrase
has been*given. Wherever possible, however, I have, at the risk of
being styled a purist, rendered the French technical terms by
English technical equivalents. My thanks are due to Mr. Joseph
Turrell, M.A., B.C.L., Barrister-at-law, of the Inner Temple, and to
Mr. Arthur Abrahams, Solicitor, of 8 Old Jewry, London, and
23 Rue Taitbout, Paris, for much valuable assistance in this, the
hardest part of my task.
BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD.
I. THE FRENCH JUDICIAL SYSTEM. By the Translator . 19
II. A MODERN LAW-SUIT. By F. Ducuing 10 19
III. LIFE AT THE COURTS. By H. Vonoven 20 36
IV. BEFORE COURT OPENS. By Maxima Halbrand and
Ed. Benoit-Ldvy 37 65
V. IN COURT. By Maxime Halbrand 66 89
VI. ADJUNCTS TO THE CIVIL COURT. By G. Vannesson
and Maxime Halbrand 90 99
VII. THE AUCTION ROOM. By Ch. Fourcaulx 100 104,
VIII. THE ADVOCATES' CONFERENCE. By Baillot and
Maxime Halbrand 105 in
IX. TAKING PROPERTY FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES. By Ch.
Fourcaulx 112 115
X. THE COURT OF APPEAL. By F. Obermayer and
Maxime Halbrand 116 127
XI. ADJUNCTS TO THE COURT OF APPEAL. By De Maiziere 128 132
XII. THE COURT OF CASSATION. By Max Vincent .... 133135
XIII. THE COURTS AT NIGHT. By Alfred Husson 136 137
XIV. CRIMINAL COURTS THE ACCUSED. By H. Vonoven . 138139
XV. THE COURT OF SIMPLE POLICE. By A. Pujo .... 140143
XVI. THE COURT OF CORRECTIONAL POLICE. By A.
Clemenceau, J. Moinaux, Ch. d'Arcis, and H. Vonoven 144 164
XVII. CRIMINAL APPEALS. By C. Dugas 165169
XVIII. THE CHAMBER OF INDICTMENTS. By Burgensis-
viii CONTENTS ,
XIX. THE COURT OF ASSIZE. By Albert Bataille . . . ^ . 173206
XX. THE CONCIERGERIE. By Ame'de'e Blondeau and H.
Vonoven .................... 207 216
XXI. THE DEPOT. By Amedde Blondeau and Maxima
Halbrand .................... 217 229
XXII. THE ANTHROPOMETRIC DEPARTMENT. By Paul
Bonhomme ................... 230 239
XXIII. THE DETECTIVE POLICE. By V. Beau ........ 240243
XXIV. JUDGES OF INSTRUCTION. By G. Vannesson and A.
Bataille ..................... 244 252
XXV. THE PROCUREUR AND HIS STAFF. By Maxime Halbrand 253
XXVI. ROUND ABOUT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE. By A.
Clemenceau, E. Ratoin, Ch. Fourcaulx, and H. Vonoven 254 266
XXVII. THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE.
By Godefroy, A. Bataille, Ebrard-Gervasy, and
H. Vonoven ................... 267 283
XXVIII. EVOLUTION AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE. By H.
Vonoven and A. Bergougnan ... ........ 284 293
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
INTRODUCTORY THE FRENCH JUDICIAL SYSTEM
THE French judicial system is in many respects entirely
different from the English.
The English law courts can trace their descent, without a break
from the Curia Regis of Henry the Second ; those of France date
only from the legislation of the Constituent Assembly in 1791.
English judicial reformers have never done more than occasionally
modify existing institutions to meet the needs of a growing com-
munity ; the French revolutionary reformers completely swept away
a system built up by centuries of custom and tradition, in favour
of one based solely on reason and convenience. The English
judicial system exhibits an agglomeration of antiquity and newness
in the development of which legal fiction, equity, and legislation
have all played their part; the French system, springing as a whole
from one single enactment, is uniform, harmonious, and exact.
One of the marked features of English polity is the separation be-
tween the law courts and the executive government ; in France, no
civil or criminal action can take place save under the direct super-
vision of a state official. In England, high judicial office is only
given to barristers of long standing and approved success ; and re-
moval from an inferior to a higher grade is infrequent. In France,
an advocate while merely a probationer is appointed to an inferior
judicial office, and gradually rises to the higher courts by successive
promotions. In England, cases to which a government official is a
2 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
party are tried in the ordinary courts and by the ordinary rules ;
in France, these actions are tried in special administrative courts
and by special administrative rules.
The French Government maintains a constant and regular
supervision over the administration of justice by means of the
ministere public. This is a state department, members of which sit
in every court throughout France " to represent there the cause of
public order and the interests of society in general." x Members
of the ministere public who sit in the courts of first instance are
known as procureurs. In the courts of appeal they are styled
procureurs-gencraiix. They have deputies (substituts] ; certain
agents of the procureurs-generaux being, however, styled avocats-
gcneraux. Collectively, the members of the ministere public are
also known as the magistrature debout in distinction to the ordinary
judges, or magistrature assise. In criminal actions the members
of the ministere public act as public prosecutors. In civil cases
they either side with the plaintiff or defendant, as they think fit,
being then known as partie principale ; or they merely make a
general comment on the matters before the court, in which case
they appear as partie jointe. The body of public advocates at-
tached to any one court is known as the parquet. The procureurs-
generaux, of whom there is one attached to every high court in
France, have a right of supervision over their several parquets ; but
the whole ministere public is strictly subordinate to the minister of
justice. He is entitled to give its members instructions on every
point connected with their duties. They are appointed and can
be dismissed at will by the chief of the State, who, however, always
acts on the advice of the minister of justice in this particular. 2
1 See Dictionnaire cf Administration ; article " Mini stcre public. "
- It is impossible to find good English equivalents for the French terms procureur-
general and proem eur. "Public advocate" expresses their duties generally;
" public prosecutor" their duty on the criminal side. Both these terms have accordingly
been used in the ensuing translation. Occasionally, however, as, for instance, when the
procureur-general appears in a ceremonial character, I have thought it best to use the
French word. Procureur-general cannot be translated " attorney-general," owing to
the difference in the special meaning attached to each word in France and England.
The procuretir-geni'ralis a permanent official ; he is only one of a group of equals ; he
acts at the suggestion of the Government, which when it needs legal advice applies to the
Council of State. The "attorney-general" in England changes with the Ministry;
stands alone ; and is the chief legal adviser of the Crown. There is, however, a faint
resemblance between the ministere public and the department presided over by the
solicitor to the Treasury.
THE FRENCH JUDICIAL SYSTEM 3
The ordinary judicial system of France may be summarised as
I. Tribunaux de paix. In each canton 1 is a tribunal de paix
(magistrate's court), presided over by a juge de paix (justice of the
peace, or, more properly, stipendiary magistrate). He is assisted
by a greffier (registrar or magistrate's clerk) ; and he has two
Supplcants (deputies) to take his place in case of absence or indis-
position. His jurisdiction extends to all cases of contravention
(petty offences) specified by the penal code. He can impose,
without appeal, a. fine of fifteen francs or a sentence of imprison-
ment for five days. Fine or imprisonment beyond these amounts
can be appealed against to the tribunal correctionnel (criminal court
of first instance) of the arrondissement. In criminal cases the
State is represented in the magistrate's court by a commissary of
police, by the mayor of the commune in which the court is located,
or by a supplcant of the magistrate himself.
In civil matters \.\\e juge de paix has summary jurisdiction in all
actions in which the property in dispute, or sum claimed, does not
exceed 100 francs in value. He can also judge actions up to 200
francs, but an appeal here lies to the tribunal civil (civil court of
first instance) of the arrondissement. He is also entitled to try
certain special actions up to 1500 francs value, as, e.g. disputes be-
tween hotel -keepers and their guests ; and certain special actions
for indefinite amounts, as, e.g. claims for damage to standing crops
or underwood laid by farmers resident in his locality. In both of
these cases appeal lies to the tribunal civil. His chief civil duty
however, is that of an arbitrator. He is bound, by law, to try and
effect, in a friendly way and without charging any fee, a reconciliation
between all persons wishing to go to law. In theory, no plaintiff
in a civil suit can issue a writ till he puts in a statement to the effect
that the juge de paix has failed to reconcile him to the defendant.
In practice, however, exemption from this attempt at conciliation
(prclijiiinaire de conciliation) can invariably be obtained by appli-
cation to the president of the tribunal civil. There are also certain
special cases in which the preliminaire de conciliation may be dis-
pensed with of right, e.g. cases to which the State or a municipality-
is a party ; cases in which the rights of infants are concerned ;
and cases in which there is more than one defendant. 2
1 France is divided into eighty-seven departments, 362 arrondissements, and about
36,000 communes. The latter correspond to the English township.
de paix are called on to arbitrate in about two and a quarter million
4 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The ministere public is not represented in the magistrate's court
in civil cases.
II. Tribunaux de premiere instance. In every arrondissement
sits a court of first instance. 1 It is usually known simply as le
tribunal ; it takes both criminal actions, when it is called tribunal
correctionnel (translated in the text " correctional court "), and civil
actions, under the name of tribunal civil (civil court of first in-
stance.) The tribmiaux vary in size. That of Paris contains no less
than seventy-four judges and fifteen suppleants. Every tribunal
is divided into different chambers, among which the work is dis-
tributed, the Paris tribunal, for instance, comprising eleven
chambers. The ministere public is represented in all the courts of
first instance, both civil and criminal, by a procureur and his
The correctional court hears appeals from the magistrates'
courts, its judgment in these cases being final. It also tries, but in
first instance only, all offences specified as delits (misdemeanours)
by the penal code. Appeal in these cases lies to the Court of
Certain members of the correctional court are deputed to act
asjuges a" instruction (examining magistrates). The latter are em-
powered to examine all accused persons. If they think there
is no ground for the charge they issue an ordonnance de non lieu,
and the accused is set at liberty. If they consider it their
duty to commit the accused, they give directions for his trial
before a magistrate if the offence amount only to a contravention,
and before a correctional court if the offence amount to a delit. If
the accused is charged on good grounds with crime (felony) the
examining magistrate passes him on to a cJiambre des mises en
accusations (chamber of indictments), which formally draws up the
charge and sends the accused before the court of assize. It should
be noted that an examining magistrate questions the accused per-
sonally and in private. He can remand him into solitary confine-
ment for an indefinite number of times, no limit being placed on
the time allotted to examination. The system thus readily lends
itself to abuse ; and there are said to be cases of prisoners wrong-
civil cases every year. On an average, one case out of every three is satisfactorily
settled in this way.
1 But there is only one court of first instance for the department of the Seine. It
sits at Paris. The arrondissement of Puget-Theniers (Alpes-Maritimes) is grouped with
that of Nice for judicial purposes.
THE FRENCH JUDICIAL SYSTEM 5
fully confessing to a charge in order to put an end to the worrying
torture of private examination.
The civil court of first instance hears appeals from the magis-
trate's court. It has a summary jurisdiction in all claims up to
1500 francs value. It can also try any actions beyond this
amount ; but, in the latter case, an appeal lies to the court of
///. Cours d'appel. For purposes of appeal jurisdiction,
France is divided into twenty-six districts, in each of which sits
a cour d'appel (court of appeal) with authority over several
The courts of appeal, like the courts of first instance, vary in
size ; that of Paris contains seventy-two judges. In the provinces
the number of judges varies from twenty to thirty-one. Every court
of appeal is divided into three chambers. Its judges are divided
into a first president of the whole court, a president for each
chamber, and a number of puisne judges, known as " counsellors of
appeal." The three chambers are :
1. La chambre civile (the civil chamber), which hears appeals
from the civil courts of first instance on questions of fact ; and,
rather singularly, acts as a criminal court in case of misdemeanours
committed by great officials, judges and knight commanders of
the Legion of Honour. Seven judges form a quorum.
2. La clunnbre dcS appels correct ionnels (chamber of criminal
appeals), which hears appeals from the correctional courts. The
appeal can be made cither by a convicted prisoner, or by the
public prosecutor on the ground that the defendant was wrongfully
acquitted or received too slight a sentence. The latter is called an
appeal a minima. The court of appeal has power to increase sen-
tences of the correctional court. Five judges form a quorum.
3. La clunnbre des wises en accusations (chamber of indict-
ments), entrusted with the duty of examining into charges of
felony and with power to order commitment or discharge.
A judge of the court of appeal also presides over the jures
cC expropriation (juries of ten appointed to assess compensation
in case where property is taken for public purposes). This is the
only instance of a jury in civil cases.
1 Except the court of appeal at Dastia, whose authority is confined to the department
6 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The ministere public is represented in the appeal courts by a
procureur-ff/n4ral, avocats-generaux, and the usual substituts.
IV. Cours a'assises. The French assize courts resemble the
English in the fact that their members go on circuit They are
held in the chief town of each department every three months,
and have cognizance of offences specified as crimes by the penal
An assize court consists of three judges taken either from the
court of appeal in whose district the department lies ; or, in some
cases, of one member of the court of appeal and two members of
the neighbouring correctional court. The charge is laid by the
chamber of indictments and the prosecution conducted by a
prociireur-general or one of his substituts. The question of guilt or
innocence is left to the decision of a jury of twelve. The verdict
of the majority is always taken. Equal division is regarded as
tantamount to an acquittal.
V. La cour de cassation. The court of cassation, which sits at
Paris, is the supreme court of appeal for all France. Application
may be made to it from any decision of any court. An appeal to
the court of cassation, which is specially called, not appel, but
ponrvoi en cassation, can only be made on a point of law, e.g. an
error in an indictment, or a misinterpretation of an article of the
code, or an excess of powers committed by a court. The court of
cassation is thus a school of jurisprudence. Arguments brought
before it must show a minute knowledge of the letter of the law ;
and it has a special bar, the members of which do not plead in the
other courts. The court of cassation also exercises a disciplinary
power over the whole French judiciary. Thus it is always open to
receive complaints of corruption or denial of justice against any
judge or magistrate. In these cases the whole court of cassation sits
en audience solennelle,\he. minister of justice acting as its president.
The delinquent judge is allowed counsel. The court of cassation
consists of a first president, three presidents of chambers, and
forty-five puisne judges, styled counsellors. It is divided into three
1. La chambre des requetes (chamber of requests), which
merely examines civil appeals to see if they are justifiable.
2. La chambre civile (the civil chamber), which finally hears
the civil appeals remitted to it by the above.
THE FRENCH JUDICIAL SYSTEM 7
3. La cJiambre correct ionnelle (the criminal chamber), which
hears criminal appeals direct.
After careful examination of the pleas put forward by the
appellant, the court of cassation either declares that no error of
law having been committed the judgment must be upheld, or, in
the opposite case, quashes the judgment, and orders a new trial.
The above courts comprise the ordinary jurisdiction, with which
the ensuing work is mainly concerned. There are, however, two
other systems of jurisdiction which, as they are also referred to
later on, may be described very briefly. They are :
VI. La juridiction commerciale, consisting of (a) the conseils de
prudhommes (arbitration boards) established in the chief industrial
centres, to decide disputes between workmen and employers ; and
(fr) the tribitnaux de commerce (commercial courts), established in
the chief commercial centres for the settlement of commercial
disagreements. Where no arbitration boards or commercial courts
exist, industrial and commercial disputes come before the ordinary
civil courts. And,
VII. La juridiction administrative, to judge all charges brought
against servants of the State in their official capacity. It comprises
(a) the conseil de prefecture, which sits in every department as an
administrative court of first instance ; (&} the cour des comptes,
established to check the management and disbursalof the revenue ;
and (c) the conseil detat (council of state), which hears appeals
from both these courts, but is chiefly occupied in giving legal
assistance to the executive government. The tw r o latter courts sit
at Paris. The administrative courts act under a special procedure,
they have a strong official bias, and actions laid by private
individuals against State officials rarely succeed. Questions oc-
casionally arising as to whether a case comes under the ordinary
or administrative jurisdiction are decided by a special court
known as the tribunal des conflits (court for questions of conflict-
All the French judges are appointed by the chief of the State.
They are all irremovable except for misconduct, saving the juges
de paix, who are dismissable at will.
French judicial salaries are very low when judged by the English
standard. The president of the court of cassation, the head of the
French judiciary, receives 30,000 francs (1200 a year), the re-
muneration of other members of the court varying according to
8 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
their rank from 25,000 francs (1000) to 18,000 francs (720).
The first president of the court of appeal at Paris receives 25,000
francs a year. The salaries of other members of that court range
from 13,750 francs ("550) to 11,000 francs (440). The salaries of
appeal judges in the provinces range from 20,000 francs (,800) to
5000 francs (200). The president of the Paris court of first
instance receives 20,000 francs (800) a year. The vice-presidents
of the eleven chambers 10,000 francs (400) a year each. In the
provinces, judges of first instance receive from 10,000 francs
(400) to 2,400 francs (96} a year. Juges de paix in Paris receive
8000 francs (320). In the provinces their maximum salary is
5000 francs (200), and the minimum 1800 francs (72) a year.
Members of the ministere public are paid salaries proportioned to
those received by the judges in whose courts they appear.
The following work deals with the law courts which have their
home in the Palace of Justice in Paris. Of these, the court of
cassation alone has a sovereign authority Over the whole of
France. 1 The others have a purely local jurisdiction, and in
organisation and procedure are identical with any of the other
corresponding local courts. The Palace of Justice, if we count
with it the Prefecture of Police and the Tribunal of Commerce,
occupies about half of the islet in the river Seine known as the
cite. The cite is the most ancient part of Paris. The Palais de
Justice itself was originally a residence of the kings of France.
It so remained till 1431, when it was made over to the chief
French law court, then known as the " Parliament of Paris," by
Charles VI. Like most public buildings in Paris, the Palace of
Justice has suffered greatly from the effects of political revolution ;
especially during the Communist movement of 1871, when a great
portion of it was burnt down. Little of the ancient palace thus
remains, except the incomparable Sainte-Chapelle, which has stood
through the vicissitudes of six centuries of political turmoil, as a
monument to the saintly genius of Louis IX. But owing to the
care and liberality of the French government, the modern Palace
of Justice, an irregular but stately pile of buildings, bounded on
two of its sides by the Seine, and on the other two by the Place
Dauphine and the Boulevard du Palais, is well worthy of its duties.
1 The three other sovereign courts, the conseil d'etat, the cour des comj>tes, and the
tribunal des conflits sit in the Palais Royal.
THE FRENCH JUDICIAL SYSTEM 9
The principal entrance is from the Boulevard du Palais, by the
Cour de Mai. A grand flight of steps leads to the Galerie
Marchande; on the right of which is the celebrated Salle des
Pas-Perdus, the great meeting place for all whose business brings
them to the Paris law courts. From here the way to the different
courts lies open ; the reader will find their appearance, their
inhabitants, and their every-day life fully described to him in
the ensuing pages. 1
1 Since the above was written, certain laws have been in process of enactment with
the object of effecting a reduction in the number both of the courts and the staff of judges.
A MODERN LAW-SUIT
" Justice is merely the observance of forms."
A LEARNED judge placed this aphorism at the head of one
of his works. Did he intend to pass a criticism on justice, or a
panegyric on procedure ? Those who knew him will incline to the
latter hypothesis. In either case what this author said was true.
It is not enough for a man to know his rights ; he must know
the way to assert them. This the code of procedure teaches, but
in a manner so subtle that only officers of the revenue and men of
law can thread the maze. Far be it from us, therefore, to attempt
here a detailed explanation of the mystery. Space would fail us,
even if the reader's patience did not. A modern brief still bears
too close a resemblance to the lawyer's bag spoken of by Rabelais,
which was swelled every day by a new document, and took to
itself beak, paunch, legs, arms, and talons, while, in the meantime,
the poor suitor's purse grew gradually leaner. 1
1 See Rabelais : Panlagritel, Book iii., c. 42. Judge Bridlegoose speaks as follows :
" A suit in law at its first birth seemeth to me shapeless and imperfect. As a bear, at
its birth, hath neither feet nor hands, skin, hair nor head ; it is merely a rude and
shapeless lump of flesh. The dam, by much licking, puts its limbs into proper shape ;
tit not. Doct. ad 1. Aquil, I. 2, in fin. Just so do I see suits of law at their first bringing
forth, to be without shape and without limbs. They have nothing but a piece or two ;
they are ugly creatures. -But when they are piled up, packed, and put in bags, \ve may
term them duly provided with limbs and shape. In such way lawyers. . . . by sucking
very much, and continually, the purses of the pleading parties, engender to their law-
suits head, feet, claws beak, teeth, hands, veins, arteries, nerves, muscles, humours."
A MODERN LAW-SUIT I I
But let us take an example of an actual law-suit, which will
give the reader some idea of the thing known as procedure.
Pierre, at the first breath of spring, had rented a country house
not far from the banks of the Seine. He takes possession ; and
lo and behold, the summer heat makes the building uninhabitable,
It had been flooded during the winter, and dried and repaired in
haste. The walls had been soaked with water, which now began
to ooze through all the joints ; spoiling the curtains, covering
the wood-work with mould, and filtering through the ceilings.
Our friend's one idea was to be quit of his bargain. The
landlord, having got a substantial tenant for three years, swore at
floods, architects, and mankind in general ; and would not hear a
word. There was nothing for it but to go to law.
Pierre put the matter into the hands of his friend, Maitrc
Renard. " We shall put the facts in evidence," said the solicitor,
" and you must tell your architect to assist the officer of the court
in framing his summons. Then we will make application to the
judge in chambers." This application in chambers is a summary
process, which consists in asking the president of the court to
direct urgent measures to be taken without prejudice to any rights
A summons then is issued against the landlord. The latter, in
his turn, hurries to his solicitor, Maitre Leveau. Both parties
attend in the judge's chambers. Maitre Renard puts in his
evidence. Maitre Leveau maintains that if the house is damp,
it is because the tenant has a horror of sunlight, and keeps the
shutters closed. To settle this dispute, the judge makes an order
appointing x a competent surveyor to inspect the premises.
Up to now things have gone on swimmingly. But the surveyor
is an important person, with heaps of clients and heaps of com-
missions from the courts, and he takes everything in its regular
turn. Autumn comes, and matters have not moved an inch.
Pierre has had to leave the house, which was melting away ;
but he has duly to pay his landlord's rent, his solicitor's charges,
and the surveyor's fees. At last the surveyor finds his way
to the place and prescribes extensive repairs, which cannot
be executed till the spring. The landlord sees himself ruined
already, and yet is only half in the wrong.
Already the expenses incurred on one side and the other are
1 Nomine far ordonnancc un expert.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
so heavy that an amicable settlement has become impossible. The
surveyor sends in his report, bears testimony to the landlord's good
faith, and allows that the Seine made too long a stay in his house.
The law-suit proper is only just going to begin.
The code of procedure prescribes an attempt at reconciliation *
before a justice of the peace. But at Paris a petition is presented
to the president praying that a writ be issued at once, on the
AN OFFICIAL SURVEY.
ground of urgency ; the petition is always allowed, or, it would be
better to say, granted as a matter of course. This practice is
peculiar to Paris, and does not work badly.
The landlord then is served with a writ claiming the annulment
of the lease and damages. He must, in accordance with the writ,
appear within three clear days. But his lawyer tells him what
1 Preiiminaire de conciliation.
A MODERN LAW-SUIT 13
this means. He must be represented by a solicitor, whose services
cannot be dispensed with. Maitre Leveau notifies his friend that
he is retained for the defence.
From this day to the service of the judgment J all papers in the
action will be exchanged between the two solicitors ; in the shape,
be it understood, of documents stamped and registered, and
through the agency of an officer of the court. Maitre Renard,
solicitor of our friend Pierre, then deposits at the office of the
court a sheet of paper on which the claims mentioned in the writ
are word for word repeated. This document is called the placet ;
it will be taken some day from the pigeon-holes of the office to lie
for a while on the bar of the court ; it will come under the judge's
eye when the case is argued, and will finally end its days- amidst
the dust of the archives. But it has not reached this stage vet.
Mark what follows. The registrar has entered the case on
the general cause list of the tribunal. The landlord's solicitor
Leveau, now puts in a special plea requiring discovery of docu-
ments. 2 No answer is given ; the solicitor does not press the
point, and, at the end of three or four weeks, he pleads to the
merits of the case 3 denying liability.
These pleadings could be comprised in two lines, but they will
have to be engrossed on a number of folios (sheets of paper written
on both sides) proportional to the importance of the suit. A law
book will furnish the subject-matter ; but the clerk might quite
safely introduce newspaper articles or comic literature. Nobody
reads this trash, the sole purpose of which is to increase the
income of the court officials. The abuse is provided for and
legalised in the authorised scale of charges. In summary affairs,
that is those in which no appeal is allowed, there are no engrossed
The landlord's statement of defence has now been delivered.
His solicitor has explained to him that it is purposely meaningless.
Later on, when the counsel have shown their briefs to each other,
both parties will proceed with a thorough knowledge of the matter,
From this time forward issue is joined. If the defendant had
not instructed a solicitor to appear for him after receiving the
writ of summons, there would have been judgment for default (of
1 Signification du jiigement.
2 Prend des conclusions exceplionnelles, tendant a la communication des pieces.
3 Prend des conclusions an fond.
14 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
appearance) against the party. 1 The court would have given the
case in Pierre's favour, reserving, however, to the landlord the
right of being heard after service of the judgment, even after
execution. If the defendant had instructed a solicitor to appear
for him, but had not formally pleaded to the merits of the case,
there would have been judgment for default (of pleading) against
the solicitor; 2 and the claim to be heard after service of the
judgment would have had to be made within eight days' time.
The cause has been assigned to the sixth chamber of the civil
tribunal, and entered in the particular list of that chamber. It is
an urgent affair : for Pierre, who goes on paying his rent ; for the
landlord, whose house, repaired under the direction of the official
surveyor, remains shut up. But this is not the only urgent cause
on the list ; the sixth chamber has heavy arrears ; and the
president, beset by applications from solicitors, counsel, suitors,
and the friends of suitors, entrenches himself behind the strictest
rules of order. Thanks to the united efforts of the opposing parties,
the suit at last comes up for trial at the end of thirteen months.
"At last," says Pierre, "I am going to have my case tried."
On which his solicitor, Maitre Renard, remarks : " I take the
needful steps ; some one else argues the case. I have sent your
brief to counsel." Pierre begins to have doubts about the famous
principle of the division of labour : the officer of the court, the
architect, the solicitor, the advocate. What a number of wheels !
and all have to be greased !
Our suitor makes a virtue of resignation. He sees his counsel,
explains the matter, pays with the best grace he can command the
customary fee, and keeps up his spirits. For the case will be
taken on an appointed day of the week, though sixty others which
were ripe for hearing before it have to be tried first. Happily the
two parties are equally anxious to get it over, and their counsel
are eager for the fray.
They communicate their documents to each other. This is a
practice little known and still less appreciated by the world at
large. Even upright men would rather like to confound their
opponents by not unmasking their batteries till the hearing. The
less scrupulous would be glad to profit by the uncertainty which
the previous examination of documents renders impossible. The
bar is very punctilious on this point ; and thus it comes about
1 Defaut contrepartie " Defant contre avoue.
A MODERN LAW-SUIT 15
that there is light and comparative security in law-suits. After
exchange of documents and the final close of the pleadings,
the proceedings are completed, and leave is obtained from the
president to have the case marked ready for trial. During the
last three months, ever)* time the list of cases was called on
Thursday this case has been called from week to week. It will
continue to be called, but henceforth as one of a privileged
class. At last the counsel get their chance. The court <jives
judgment ; and Pierre wins his case.
It is true that the lease has nearly expired, and Pierre has
reckoned without his host. The landlord, who has already been
compelled to repair his house under the most onerous condi-
tions, is horror-struck at the united cost of the proceeding in
chambers, the survey, and the action, which last also includes sur-
veyor's fees. Every judgment in an action for unliquidated damages
or for an amount exceeding 1500 francs, is subject to appeal.
Pierre's rent was 1800 francs a year, and the term of the lease
which he claimed to have cancelled was three years. The landlord
therefore determines to appeal.
Pierre then has to pay the full three years' rent of a house in
which he has lived for two months ; for the appeal suspends the
operation of the judgment. He believes, however, that he will not
have to employ fresh persons to represent him. Mai t re Renard
undeceives him : " I only practise in the Court of First Instance, so
I will pass you on to my friend, Maitre Prudent, who is a solicitor
of the Court of Appeal." Needless to say that Maitre Prudent's
services, like those of Maitre Renard, cannot be dispensed with,
and are not more gratuitous. Pierre is something of a logician,
and wonders why his solicitor, like his advocate, should not be
able to follow him through all the stages of jurisdiction. He has
to buy a new experience.
His visit to Maitre Prudent cheers him up. He thought that
the case would last another two years and a half, as it had done
before the lower court. " Set your mind at rest," answers Maitre
Prudent, " you will get judgment in nine months." Maitre Prudent
spoke the truth. Suits take so long in the courts of first instance
that the suitor's courage and purse are often exhausted in the
earliest stage of jurisdiction. Pierre, moreover, is charmed with
the simplicity of the procedure. The appellant sets forth the
grounds of his appeal in a formal statement. The respondent,
1 6 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
relying on the reasons given by the first judges, contents himself
with asking that the decree of the court below may be affirmed.
After nine months' waiting, the appeal comes up for hearing.
A month later it was decided, and this time Pierre has lost his
cause ! The court held that when he took the house in question
he knew that the Seine had inundated it. The injury caused by
damp was not serious enough to render the house uninhabitable ;
and, besides, the landlord has executed all the repairs ordered by
the official surveyor.
" I shall go to the Court of Cassation ! " cries Pierre.
" Don't think of such a thing," remonstrates his advocate. " You
may know all about the condition of the place, and the seriousness
of the damage caused by damp ; but these are questions of fact which
the Court of Cassation does not decide." " What does it do, then ? "
" It begins by ascertaining the facts recognised as authentic in the
judgment appealed from. Then it inquires if the laiv has been pro-
perly applied. Now, it is the correctness of the facts that you dispute,
not the legal deductions drawn from them by the Court of Appeal."
Pierre would not give in, and he asked his advocate if he would
appear for him in the Court of Cassation. " Nay, I cannot,"
answered the latter. " At the Court of Cassation there are special
functionaries whom you must retain. They are called advocates
like ourselves, but they perform the duties of solicitors as well."
Pierre was once more filled with admiration for the principle
of the division of labour. He again explained his case, and he
again paid a fee. The advocate at the Court of Cassation was of
opinion that there was nothing in the case. But Pierre persisted ;
and, eventually, it was discovered that there had been a failure to
decide on a minor point of the claim. The advocate drew up first
an application to this Supreme Court, and then a long statement of
the grounds on which it was based. The whole was deposited at
the office of the Chamber of Requests. This is an examining
board by which an appeal must be sanctioned before it can be
submitted to the Civil Chamber the real Court of Cassation,
properly speaking. Thus the opposite party is not represented in
this first stage of the proceedings. But it would be absurd for
fifteen counsellors to meet together simply to see whether a notice
of appeal is serious ; and the Chamber of Requests really looks
into the grounds of the petition so thoroughly that the unhappy
appellant has to pass two courts, and to bear the cost of two trials.
A MODERN LAW-SUIT \J
Pierre did not enjoy this pleasure. Both, the counsellor ap-
pointed to examine and report on his application and the advocate-
general were of opinion that the court below had, by implication,
decided the point which the appellant alleged had been passed over ;
and leave to appeal was refused in spite of the advocate's rhetoric.
The proceedings before the Chamber of Requests had lasted a
year. They would have lasted eighteen months more before the
Civil Chamber. And, if the judgment of the Paris Court of Ap-
peal had been quashed, it would have been necessary to begin over
again before that court, as the Court of Cassation restores every-
thing to the state it was in before the irregular judgment was given.
When Pierre, who had some philosophy as well as something
to lose, thought of this, he felt consoled. The case had lasted five
years. It had cost about 2000 francs in the first instance (in-
cluding 700 francs paid as fees to the surveyor), 1000 francs in the
Court of Appeal, and the same amount before the Chamber of
Requests. Yet we are only speaking of the taxed costs ; counsel's
fees, be it understood, do not come under this heading. All this
has not gone to the lawyers. The public treasury has had the
lion's share, more than half in fact, in the shape of fees for regis-
tration and stamps. The landlord has been not less thoroughly
fleeced, for the surveyor had directed the repairs to be carried out
with due respect to the rules of art.
Good people ! if you will go to law, see that you have time,,
money, and resignation.
There is hardly a law-suit at Paris, even among those classed as
summary proceedings, which does not last a year. For ordinary
cases a much longer space of time must be allowed. To fix pre-
cisely the interval which separates the issue of the writ from the
judgment, it would be necessary to take into account many factors;,
the nature of the suit, the court to which it is assigned (for justice
is not equally halting in all), the diligence of the solicitors in bring-
ing the case on for trial, the readiness of the counsel to argue it.
. . . But I know of few which have not lasted for two or three
years. In the first chamber of the tribunal, one must no longer
count by years but by lustres.
Here again any exact calculation is out of the question
Everything depends upon the nature of the suit and on the side
issues which may arise out of the original claim. Generally
1 8 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
speaking, we may say that the costs bear no relation to the
importance of the matters in dispute, and that they are thus
disproportionately heavy in actions of lesser importance. The
registration fees payable on all documents of procedure are
uniform. There is, however, an ad valorem duty on the amount
recovered, the rate of which varies, according as the action is one
for debt or damages. Of course, if the judgment is reversed on
appeal, the registration office pays back nothing. This is a
fundamental maxim of our fiscal legislation. Shall we give a few
examples ? It is reckoned that a summary proceeding costs from
100 to 200 francs. A divorce with judgment by default rarely
runs to less than 500 francs. If the action is defended, the costs
may be reckoned at 1000 or 1500 francs. If there are collateral
questions as to alimony and custody of children, if commissions
have to be sent to other tribunals to examine witnesses who live
far from Paris, the figures may be easily doubled.
A suit for judicial separation, going by default (to take the
most ordinary case), costs more than 500 francs, from the expense
of having to advertise the judgment in different newspapers.
It is impossible to escape from an ordinary civil action for less
than 300 francs, exclusive of the dues payable on the amount for
which judgment is given. These dues are at the rate of -J- per
cent, in case of debts, and 2 per cent, in case of damages.
All this is neither moderate nor just. But the abuse becomes
flagrant when the suitor is in poor circumstances. It is true that
judicial assistance is liberally afforded to persons suing in forma
pauperis. This makes it possible for any man to go to law ; but
it does not help him to bear the law's delay. Take the case of a
workman who has been run over at a crossing by a clumsy driver.
The wheels of the vehicle have passed over his body. He leaves
the hospital a cripple. He obtains judicial assistance, and claims
compensation from the company employing the man who caused
the accident. His case will remain on the files of the court for
twelve or fourteen months. It will not be decided in less than two
years, and yet the plaintiff is a poor fellow who, more often than
not, has a family to support. How will he be able to wait for the
decision of the court ?
One of two things must happen. Either he will compound on
disastrous terms with the insurance company which is the real
defendant, or he will throw up judicial assistance, and fall into the
hands of some speculative agent who will make a private bargain
A MODERN LAW-SUIT 19
with him and sue in his name. Accident cases ought to be treated
as urgent, and taken on specially assigned days, without having to
wait their turn on the list. It is true that all accident cases could
not be decided immediately ; they would have to be taken in order
according to the date at which the writ was issued. But it would
be a matter of months instead of years.
As regards other cases, the crowded state of the cause list is no
sufficient explanation of the delay they undergo. If the courts opened
at the stated hours ; if the sittings were not indefinitely suspended ; if
leave to have a case deferred were not so readily granted ; if, in one
word, judges and advocates did their duty, urgent cases would
come on in a reasonable time. The only person who profits by
this general system of indifference is the pettifogging agent.
Access to his office is so easy, that the advances he demands seem
unimportant or prudent ; the client does not inquire whether this
man who styles himself "ex-notary," "ex-solicitor," "jurisconsult,"
or " advocate," is not an ignoramus or a rascal.
To cut down the expense of litigation, to quicken the progress
of law-suits, to simplify procedure, and in consequence to substitute
for monopoly some guarantees of learning and uprightness, this is
an ideal which the necessities of the public revenue and respect for
vested interests place hopelessly beyond our reach. The evils
from which French justice suffers are indeed more keenly felt at
Paris than anywhere else. It would be no small reform to establish
a more vigilant and rigorous supervision over all persons and
matters in the law courts, and to make costs bear some proportion
to the interests involved.
Tourists in the Law Courts.
LIFE AT THE COURTS
THE world of the law courts has not merely a building to itself.
The life with which it inspires its home has also an individuality ;
it is original in both senses of the word. A calm life, in which the
excitement of Parisian existence shows itself only in a faint reflec-
tion. Just as moats filled with water used to guard the feudal
castle against hostile attacks, so the Seine, in surrounding the
Palace of Justice with its two arms, seems to protect it from the
It is not any personal peculiarity that marks off \h.Q.justiriards }
as they used to be called, from their fellow-men. In Paris, when
they have put off their lawyer's caps, plain or ornamented, advocates
and solicitors, counsellors and judges, lose themselves in the crowd
with which they mingle. Most of them are men of the time ; they
affect current theories ; they share in prevailing prejudices, and they
follow the fashion of the day. They go to the Varietes, to the
Theatre-Libre, or to the Chat-Noir, neither more nor less than
ordinary mortals who have never donned the lawyer's garb. But
the moment they cross the gate opening off the boulevard, or mount
the steps which lead from the Place Dauphine, they undergo a
change which renders them morally unrecognisable. The savant,.
LIFE AT THE COURTS 23
the stock-broker, the actor, carry with them everywhere the
signs that betoken their connection with science, finance, or the
theatre. The lawyer is only a lawyer at the law courts. We are
going to study him on the spot, under all his aspects, in all his
varieties ; magistrate, advocate, solicitor, usher, registrar ; while
moving round all we shall see the throng of litigants. But it will
not be enough to lead our readers through the corridors and halls
of the Palace of Justice like common visitors; we shall penetrate
farther into the world there. For we ourselves l form a humble part
of that world, and know all its secrets ; we have questioned mem-
bers of the profession ; we have lived their life ; and we have pushed
our way with them into the inner chambers, far from the public
eye, which are reserved for them alone.
THE PALACE ASLEFP
From August to the end of October, the Palace of Justice takes,
its rest. Unlike the dormouse, it sleeps during the summer, and
its courts only open when the leaves are falling. Up to that time
silent and still, the vast building would seem dead, did not certain
vacation sittings indicate that the life of the place, though suspended,
is not quite extinct. During these three months nothing can be
more mournful than the long empty corridors, all the more re-
sounding for the silence around. The Salle des Pas-Perdus is a
desert ; the galleries, usually filled with the buzz of conversation,,
are silent ; in the robing-rooms, five or six hats, at the most, occupy
the shelves where during the rest of the year there is not an inch
of vacant space ; no civil actions are tried, no consultations take
place. Sometimes, however, a rare frequenter of the place invades
the solitude ; and, as he passes along, echo repeats in a deep tone
the clang of the doors as they close behind him. Through the lofty
windows, the sun, striking the white flagstones, glares upon this
judicial Sahara. The few ill-fated advocates who cross it walk with
an air of irritation, gloom, and weariness ; they think of their absent
brethren whom bad fortune does not keep at Paris like themselves,
of those who scour the fields or plunge in the sea-waves ; and irate
at being stifled within walls, raging, perspiring, sick at heart, they
hurry towards the court where they are expected. Often a caravan
1 The members of the Association de la Presse juJiciaire, to whom this book is due.
24 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
of tourists, Baedeker in hand, starts up before one of them. " Look !
.an advocate in his robes," says their guide, in some European
language or other. " Really ! " they cry. They repeat the explan-
ation to one another, stare with curiosity at the poor representative
of the Parisian bar, and then continue their stroll through the Palace.
Then again, for an hour, everything is quiet. The robing-room
attendants, on duty at their posts, though unoccupied and listless,
knit as if their senses were dulled by the heavy silence. A general
depression weighs upon them ; they yawn with all the weariness
produced by lying awake in a dormitory where every one else is
.asleep. And the same sadness, the same gloom, seizes on all those
who come to the Palace of Justice in the long vacation ; for nothing
is so deplorable as a place of meeting without the people for whom
it is intended ; a theatre without spectators, a museum without
visitors, and our Palace without its familiar crowd might serve as a
symbol of melancholy.
We have said that in this huge sleeping body a remnant of
activity is still manifest. Business is transacted in the Judges'
Chambers ; there are sittings on flagrant offenders ; and the ses-
sions of the Court of Assize are not interrupted. But even there
everyone feels that it is the long vacation. In the sweltering heat
there is apathy on the bench, languor at the bar, indifference even
in the dock. Proceedings on the criminal side are devoid of interest ;
embezzlements by clerks, petty thefts, fraudulent bankruptcies,
misdemeanours, indecent assaults such is the uninteresting list of
offences that come up for trial. Cases which might make a noise
in the world have been adjourned, by tacit consent, to the next
sessions, on the pretext of a petition to the Court of Cassation
against an order for a new trial, or a reference to the examining
magistrate for further information. What is the use of an argu-
ment well conducted, or a defence well managed in the presence of
empty benches ? The accused can easily wait till the courts reopen.
Besides to wait is for his benefit ; he is better off in a house of
detention than he will be when confined to the central prison, which
expects him, or on the convict ship, sailing for New Caledonia. Let
him be patient then as advocates are patient whose cases have been
deferred till after the vacation. People have not the heart to
trouble themselves about him with the thermometer at thirty
THE BOULLVARD DU PALAIS.
LIFE AT THE COURTS 2/
But here is autumn ; coming, like the king's son in the old fairy
tale, to awaken the sleeping beauty of law, and the dormant Palace
of Justice. For some days past faces, lost to view since the end
of July, have been seen again. For some days past the life-blood
has again begun to flow through the arteries of the reviving edifice.
From all sides people are coming back, with cheerful faces and
outstretched hands. For a whole week the rush of arrivals will go
on increasing in volume ; and on every hand there will be cordial
greetings and affectionate words spoken by men sincerely glad to
see each other again. Rest has been pleasant, and the collar of
work is galling, but at the moment of taking to it again, men feel
a real pleasure at rejoining their comrades in past labours. At
sight of them, the hours of toil they have spent together come back
to memory ; the recollection brings a smile to the lips and effaces
fora moment the unfriendly feelings and jealousies of the by-gone
But in this Temple of Formality work cannot be resumed
without some preliminary ceremonies. A certain amount of pomp
and speech-making is indispensable ; and, before settling down to
their task, certain customary rites must be gone through, to wit,
the Red Mass l and the Solemn Sitting. 2
THE RED MASS
Saint- Esprit des lois ! descendez en nous !
Our lawyers are sceptics nowadays ; and they make us think
of those peasants who, though unbelievers, would not for anything
in the world cut their bread without first having made a rapid sign
of the cross .over the loaf with the end of the knife. Counsellors,
judges, attorneys-general and their assistants, advocates, every one
who bears a name known to the bench or the bar, -attends the Red
Mass at the opening of the legal year. Yet it may be taken for
granted that it is not faith which brings together the greater part
of these worshippers beneath the vaulted roof of the church of
1 La messc rou?e. - L 1 audience solennelle.
28 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Saint-Louis. Still if religion is not the cherished object of their
affections, it is none the less the oldest of their prejudices. The
majority go there just as people go to many a place in Paris,
partly to see, but really because it is a first representation, the
grand first representation of the judicial year. And thus the Red
Mass is in no danger of being abolished. And, putting philosophy
aside, we say so much the better, for it is an interesting spectacle
and most picturesque. It removes the thoughts far away from the
world that rumbles outside the door, carries them back to far
THE RED MASS. THE PROCESSION.
distant times, and revives, for an hour, something of the old
ceremonial of the courts, and the stately pageantry of days gone by.
The scene is superb : the wonderful Sainte-Chapelle, usually
so cold and dead, on this one day of the year comes back for a few
moments to life.
It is noon : the old glass of the windows, set in lace-like tracery
of stone, allows the mellow rays of the autumn sun to struggle
through, flecking with tints of violet, red, yellow, and blue the
slender columns, the pointed arches, and the gold-starred walls.
LIFE AT THE COURTS 31
The patches of colour on the walls might be taken for fantastic
offerings, fastened up by a mischievous chorister. The nave is
crowded with worshippers, half of them robed in red. It is an
astonishing blaze of scarlet, tempered here and there by the white
gleam of ermine. Red is the robe of the Cardinal-Archbishop of
Paris as he stands by his golden chair in front of the illuminated
high altar ; red are the gowns of the counsellors of the Supreme
Court on the right ; red the members of the Court of Appeal on
the left ; red the attorney-general who stands behind ; red the
advocates-general, and red their deputies all is one blaze of red.
The effect is gorgeous ; to complete it and give it a true air of
antiquity, one is almost sorry not to see behind these magistrates in
full dress, one of those appalling headsmen of old time, so grand
and grim in their purple doublets, as we knew them in the pictures
of our childish story books.
As if to make the colouring of this foreground stand out more
boldly, the back of the chapel is packed with rows of magistrates
all clad in black.
Judges of the Civil Tribunal and of the Tribunal of Commerce,
the Procureur of the Republic, the members of the Council of the
Order of Advocates, solicitors, ushers of the courts, and others ;
lastly, perched in a little gallery, are a few privileged spectators
of both sexes. The spectacle, as we see, is no ordinary one. But
it is not the eyes alone that are gratified. The choir of Notre
Dame lend their gracious aid to the celebration ; and sometimes
it is hard to keep from applauding the superb voices which intone
the Veni Creator, the Domine Salvam, &c., accompanied by harp
The mass ended, there begins a procession more curious still.
With the strictest regard to precedence, the worshippers traverse the
terrace, the walls of which are for this occasion hung with Gobelins
tapestry, and pass slowly into the Galerie Merciere. Nothing can
be more amusing for an observer than to study the attitudes and
the countenances of the magistrates as they pass. It is like the
judicial history of half a century unfolding itself in a panorama.
At the head come the veterans of old time, phantoms of ancient
judges, who make an effort to remain majestic beneath the weight
of years. Their cheeks are hairless and pinched, their small eyes
sunk deep in the orbits. A few white hairs straggle from beneath
their cap, under which one can picture the polished white crown.
32 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Their character, their worship of tradition and form, may be read
in the stock which supports their necks ; rising high above the
collar of the coat, and stiffening the rugged and wrinkled head.
After them comes the next generation ; the figure is stout, gray
whiskers fringe the pale cheeks, the lips are set, close-shaved,
crafty, and have a look of weariness ; the cravat is less voluminous,
the step firmer. With the judges of the Civil Tribunal appears
the modern face ; the head erect, the eye bright ; the sceptical
mouth wears a slight smile. They step out, thinking of the gallery
as much as of the regularity of the procession ; they find that
those in front of them take a long time to cover the ground, and,
little by little, they show annoyance at having to move so slowly.
Meanwhile, kept back by the municipal guards presenting arms,
the onlookers form a hedge on either side and press forward to
get a glimpse of the men in red as they pass.
THE SOLEMN SITTING
The worshippers at the Red Mass make their way straight to
the first chamber of the Court of Appeal where the Solemn Sitting,
which might also be called the Red Sitting, is about to be opened.
The judges of the Court of Appeal and the functionaries of the public
ministry appear there in the same costume as in the Sainte-
Chapelle ; and, still in their scarlet robes, they leave the council
chamber and place themselves on the benches ranged on either side
of the pretorium. The judges take up their position on the right,
the law officers on the left. The first president of the Court of
Appeal takes his seat surrounded by his colleagues ; the benches
allotted to advocates are filled by the members of the council of
the order and by a few fair visitors who, on the pretext that they
too wear the gown, have insinuated themselves before any one else
into these reserved places. At the back, there is a standing crowd
made up of the junior bar, the probationers and a few idlers.
" The Solemn Sitting is open," proclaims the first president of
the Court of Appeal, after a moment's pause. " We call on the
Procureur-General." The Procureur-General, who is seated first on
the bench allotted to the law officers, rises and says, " With the per-
mission of the first president, I will give way to the advocate-
general, X or Y.
LIFE AT THE COURTS 35
The first president inclines his head in token of approval, and
Mr. Advocate-General X or Y, who is on the left of the Procureur-
General, rises with a sheaf of papers in his hand, while his superior,
the Procureur-General, resumes his seat. Then, in the midst of a
rather cold, almost hostile silence, he begins reading a thesis on
some point of law. The young and bold usually take for their
subject some question which has been a little in dispute : the proof
of paternity, divorce, the paternal authority, and the right of
correction. Sometimes, even, they take up criminal subjects: trans-
portation, the solitary system, tickets of leave. Two essayists have
recently been rash enough to enter upon politics. The older hands,
those who are really versed in legal traditions, choose, on the
contrary, as dry a subject as possible marine insurance, the law of
mortgage, the contract of carriage for hire, and so on.
What is the connection between these questions and the
reopening of the law courts ? What is gained by turning the
Court of Appeal into a students' debating society ? These are
inquiries which indiscreet persons may take upon themselves to
make, and they are not easy to answer. On this point, however,
we may venture to display a little a very little erudition, which
will perhaps put investigators on the road to truth. The custom of
reading an essay at the reopening of the courts would seem to
have had its origin in a fancy which one day, in the sixteenth
century, seized on Dumenil, the king's advocate, to quote in full
parliament the commentaries of the grammarian Asconius Pedanius
on the orations of Cicero, in order to show the difference which
existed, at Rome, between the advocate and the law officer of the
This dissertation, like those of the present time, had some
congruity with the solemnity of the day, but in succeeding years
the strange spectacle was witnessed of magistrates discussing in
connection with the reopening of the parliaments all kinds of
subjects, theological, metaphysical, and scientific. Omer Talon
talked about time and sun-dials, colours, angels, fire, and the birth
of Minerva ; which later on led his son, Denis Talon, to apologize
for not being able to examine into the question whether the stars
are fastened to the sky, or are formed from vortices of particles like
the dust of our earth, whether the sun is placed in the centre of
the universe, whether one ought to admire the division into four
elements, the substantive forms of Aristotle, Plato's doctrine of
36 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
reminiscence, the conflict of bodily humours, and the circulation of
the blood. And all this on the occasion of the reopening of the law
In our own day, the opening address always ends badly. It
concludes, that is to say, with an obituary notice of all the
magistrates who have died during the past year. Most of them
belong to the illustrious unknown ; but for the time being they are
raised to the rank of great men. Must it be said ? This little
general interment, coming after the consideration of some point of
law, this funeral oration after a juridical harangue, would seem
somewhat grotesque and almost comic to any one who was
unprepared for it.
A few compliments to the advocates and solicitors of the court
usually serve as a postscript to the discourse ; and after this the
president of the order and the senior advocates present renew their
oaths. And if the Procureur-General has no requisitions to make,
the Solemn Sitting concludes. The judicial year has begun.
THE BOSC ROBING ROOM.
BEFORE COURT OPENS :
THE ROBING ROOMS
As a general rule, it is
only towards eleven o'clock
that the Law Courts begin
to show signs of life. One
step at a time, a few magis-
trates who are due at morn-
ing sittings toil up one of
the great staircases of the
Palace. Advocates who have to argue at these sittings run up
in hot haste, afraid of being late ; but they stop to take breath
when they catch sight of a magistrate, knowing that it is not
worth while hurrying any longer ; and the usual forms of
polite greeting follow, accompanied by a ceremonious bow or
brief shake of the hand. The magistrate reaches his private
room ; the advocate dons his gown, ties his bands round his
neck, puts on his cap and disappears in his turn. Silence again,
broken by arrivals that become gradually more frequent ; clatter of
banging doors ; sound of last words of conversations in the
street below which can be heard distinctly in the stone galleries.
The arrivals now follow each other quite closely, so closely that
acquaintances bound for the same destination are constantly
meeting outside and enter in groups. The omnibuses, especially
those on the line from the St. Lazare Railway Station to the
Boulevard St. Michel, bring regular loads of advocates, magistrates,
registrars, and ushers enough to make up a whole courtful of
themselves. For it is not every advocate or magistrate who can
afford the luxury of stepping out gallantly from his own private
38 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
carriage, or of coming in a cab and paying the fare without even
turning his head, as a man does when in a hurry. Towards half-
past twelve or one o'clock the rush. diminishes ; the lawyers, who
send their clerks on beforehand, arrive at their ease, some who are
late come running ; while idlers saunter in to take a look round.
The robing rooms, which for three-quarters of an hour have been
thronged, grow empty.
The advocates have three robing rooms. In the gallery facing
the Boulevard du Palais there is a partition its upper half con-
sisting of ground glass which leaves a narrow passage between
itself and the wall. This is the robing- room known as the Vestiaire
Bosc. There are three recesses in the wall so as to give more
space ; and at the other end of the gallery, looking out on
the Cour de Mai, stands a little glass-house called by
humourists the aquarium which forms a useful addition to
the robing room. Through two wickets in the partition can be
seen a couple of damsels who take charge of the coats and hats ;
and, standing in the recesses, one can behold with admiration
through the robing room doors the great luminaries of the Bar in
their shirt sleeves and without neckties, performing their toilet in
front of the looking glass. Their different habits are well known.
Maitre F - always takes off his coat, even in winter, and puts
BEFORE COURT OPENS
on a jersey or a pair of lutestring sleeves; Maitre W never
takes off his necktie ; Maitre D - always does and.
sometimes forgets to put it on again ; Maitre Lachaud
used to bring a flannel waistcoat in his brief-bag ; Maitre
V has a store of little cakes to fall back on in case of need ;
Maitre M - some sandwiches ; Maitre Lente used to have a
flask of ether and a crust of bread. Time may be well spent in
studying the different modes in which the bands are put on.
THE FONTAINE ROBING ROOM.
Some fasten the strings behind ; others tie them in front, holding
meanwhile the tip of the bands between their teeth ; others pass
the bands under their collar button ; others fasten the top part
between the necktie and the shirt without taking any precaution
to prevent the bands from working up to their very chin. As
increasing numbers put by their hats, rows of bandboxes begin to
line the rack of the partition.
On the staircase leading to the Court of Appeal is a private
door, which leads under gloomy archways to two little rooms lined
with cupboards. These form the dressing room taken charge
40 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
of by the court porter. The interior has a homelike look ; a
woman and a young girl sit sewing at the window.
The dressing room known as the Vestiaire Fontaine is at the
other entrance, on the side of the Pla'ce Dauphine, an official-
looking, comfortable place with well-polished tables and a lavatory
attached to it. Please note an ingenious little stick with which
to take down, as in a tilt-yard, the band boxes on the shelves
above. Those who use the Vestiaire Fontaine have also their
little peculiarities. Maitre La possesses a gown sewn in a
particular way, with buttons on the collar and button-holes in his
bands so as to fasten them on tightly ; Maitre Ma , an ex-
president of the Council of the Order, wears beneath his gown
an old coat, the skirts of which have been cut off, so that it
resembles the jacket of a waiter at a cafe. Maitre Be , another
ex-president, pushes his necktie round to the back of his neck and
keeps it on underneath his gown, fastening it in place by a pin.
There is a wonderful variety in the legal costume. The
official dress is always the same, a black gown with two buttons
on the shoulder to which is attached the epitoge or hood. The
latter is shaped like a macaroon, with two loose flaps falling
the longer one in front, the shorter behind. For solemn sittings,
great ceremonies, and the Court of Assize the flaps are trimmed
with ermine. Besides these, there are the bands more or less
plaited, and the flat cap like that of a parish priest. But there
are differences in the material of the gown and in the style of
wearing it ; as a rule it is worn with the skirt somewhat raised ;
sometimes it sweeps the ground, thus giving the wearer the
appearance of a tall black sugar-loaf. The caps also have their
degrees of cost, and get out of shape in different ways according
to the different handling of the wearer. The stylish kind is
worn by Maitre B.-D , rigidly cylindrical, lined with white
silk, on which are printed the owner's initials. Maitre M.-J
prefers one more elastic ; Maitre W.-R never wears one at all.
THE ORDER OF ADVOCATES
The advocates whom we have just seen in the hurry of arrival
and the undress of preparation, whom we shall find again walking
up and down the corridors, gossiping in the Pas-Perdus and
BEFORE COURT OPENS 41
addressing the courts, form a strong corporation, proud of its past
and jealous of its privileges.
As one would expect, certain parts of the Palace are set apart
for it, where the members work and talk scandal ; where they elect
representatives of the Council, where the Council of Discipline
sits, and the batonnier, the grand master of the institution, has his
throne ; where the business affairs of the Order are administered ;
After the portrait by Mile. Nelly Jacquemart.
and where penniless defendants come to seek counsel who will under-
take their cases out of charity.
At Paris, advocates only have the right to plead for clients, but
power is reserved to solicitors to apply to the court in any difficulties
of procedure and on any incidental points which are capable of sum-
mary decision. In civil cases, a party interested cannot even
42 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
appear in person with the assistance of his solicitor, unless he ob-
tains leave from the tribunal. A person indicted before the Court
of Assize has the right of choosing as his advocate any of his rela-
tives or friends, but only with the sanction of the presiding judge.
The Order of Advocates, with its exclusive right of pleading, takes
great pride in an origin which goes back to the year 5 18 of our era ;
and it glories in a founder who was no less a personage than the
uncle of that Emperor Justinian, whom M. Victorien Sardou has
lately brought before us on the stage of the Porte-St.-Martin theatre.
The Bar has passed through many changes of fortune. At
one time lost to sight, then reappearing, thanks to Charlemagne,
and preserving its continuity under the varied names of causidici,
of avantparliers, of plaidoux^ and of chevaliers de la lot, finally in
the reign of St. Louis forming itself into the " Order of Advocates,"
so as to be distinguished from the guilds of artisans established at
that time. By turns losing and regaining some of their privileges,
the advocates maintained their organisation till the date of the
Constituent Assembly, which on the 2nd September, 1790, decreed
that " the men of law heretofore called advocates, being no longer
permitted to form an order or corporation, shall wear no particular
costume in the exercise of their calling." The Revolution proved
only an eclipse for the profession. The ex-advocates entered
themselves on a list to which they admitted only men of their own
choice, and thus formed a small voluntary society in the midst of
the unorganised mass of people who were allowed to practise as
" men of law." This list acquired a legal character, and the Order
of Advocates was reconstituted by a law of the 22nd Ventose,
year XII. which also reorganised the Schools of Law.
Since that time the monopoly of the " Order of Advocates,"
has been untouched. There are, it is true, certain privileges which
it has not recovered and doubtless never will recover : for example,
the right once enjoyed by advocates of removing from their neigh-
bourhood all artisans likely to annoy them during their work, the
right of wearing a red robe or a silk sash and wearing gloves
while pleading in court, and the right to the rank of nobles. But
the law relieves them from the danger of outside competition ; while
in return the Bar offers incontestable guarantees of good faith
and provides all in distressed circumstances with unpaid defenders.
Successive ordinances and decrees have been passed to regulate
the profession of advocate, the mode of keeping the Table of the
BEFORE COURT OPENS 43
Order, the elections to the Council of Discipline and the choice of
the President. The Table of the Order, for each Bar, is the list on
which are written, in order of seniority, the names of those advocates
who have passed the period of probation and been duly ad-
mitted either by the Council of Discipline or by the tribunal en-
trusted with this duty. The whole body of admitted advocates in
any one place constitutes the Bar. For every Bar comprising more
than twenty advocates (at Paris, for example, where there are 962
on the Table), the discipline and the interests of the Order in
general are entrusted to a Council, called " Council of Discipline''
or " Council of the Order." It is elected every year by the body of
advocates on the Table, and presided over by a batonnier who is
the head or, rather, the representative of the Order.
In days gone by the dean, that is the oldest advocate on the
roll, was head of the Order. His chief duty was to ask the Parlia-
ment for a holiday for the " Lendit " and the ' ; day of St. Nicholas,"
patron saint of advocates. As there was always the risk of having
a dean broken down by weight of years, the custom arose of
choosing, at the same election, another representative of the Order,
known as the batonnier. He is thus styled because one of his
duties is to carry, at all solemn processions, the staff of the banner
of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of advocates. Under the old
Monarchy the batonnier was chosen by the assembly of advocates-
After the Revolution, he was nominated by the attorney-general.
From 1822 to 1830, and from 1852 to 1870, his election was in
the hands of the Council of the Order. During the years 1830 to
1852, and from the beginning of the third Republic, the batonnier
has been chosen by the votes of the whole Bar.
The batonnier has to speak in the name of the Bar on solemn
occasions such as funeral ceremonies ; undertakes the details of
administrative work, appoints advocates for the defence of poor
prisoners, listens to all complaints, gives advice to young advocates,
settles disputes, sees that due respect is shown to his brethren at
the Bar, and, whenever necessary, admonishes those who have
committed some slight breach of political etiquette.
The Council of Discipline looks after the pecuniary interests of
the Bar ; for the Order has a treasury of its own kept up by a
compulsory subscription of thirty francs a year from each of its
members ; the Council distributes help among advocates, or the
families of old advocates, who are in distress ; and has power to
44 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
impose fines when incurred, a paternal warning to be administered
by the batonnier to the delinquent, a warning to be formally notified
to the offender, a reprimand, suspension or erasure from the Table
of Advocates. The Council of Discipline, lastly, admits candidates
to the rank of probationers, 1 and revises the Table of Advocates
To be entitled to plead in court, a man must have first obtained
the rank of licentiate in law, and taken an oath before one of the
Courts of Appeal. This only gives him the bare title of Advocate.
He must, in addition, have his name inscribed on a table of
advocates, and be formally admited probationer by a Council of
Discipline, after an investigation into his moral character and
private means. He then becomes a member of the Bar, practising
at such and such a court or tribunal.
A man who has been admitted to one Bar can plead at any
other. The advocates of Paris appear in the provinces, and the
Parisian judges are addressed by more than one provincial advocate.
The probationer has the same rights as regards pleading in
court as an advocate who is fully qualified; but, at Paris at least,
his name does not appear on any official table. A man ambitious
of passing his probationership at Paris (the formalities are not so
severe in the provinces) must be provided with his diploma of
licentiate in law, be able to show that he really lives in Paris, has
furniture, and is of good morals for which purpose his concierge
should have nothing but good to say about him and, lastly, he
must have no interest in any commercial business, and he must
not practise any other profession than that of advocate, not even the
giving of French lessons to eke out the fees which perchance will
never come. Before 1870 he was, besides this, compelled to shave
When our candidate has taken all these precautions and
resolutions, he will carry his diploma to a very worthy gentleman
at the Procureur-General's office ; then, after making some calls and
leaving cards with the concierges, he will bring his papers to the
office of the secretary to the Council of the Order.
This is the beginning of his career.
Budding advocates about to blossom in the beer-houses of the
Quartier Latin, fathers who dream of the lawyer's gown for your
sons, turn your eyes to the end of the Palace, near the Place
BEFORE COURT OPENS 45
Dauphine, and there at the extremity of the new buildings of the
Court of Appeal, you will see a staircase and a wooden gallery
which like a Venetian bridge spans the court below. This is the
path which leads to the Bar.
The neophyte, favoured of the gods, who crosses the bridge for
the first time, will perhaps hear the sound of children's voices,
ascending in shrill discordant cadences from a small garden.
By standing on tiptoe till he reaches the glass of the gallery, he
will see below him the charming garden, closely walled in on three
sides, and filled with troops of imprisoned children.
Even though the sound of voices should not arouse his curiosity,
the future defender of orphans should none the less hoist himself
up to see what lies below. In a sanded court, prettily enlivened
here and there by evergreens, he will notice the figure of a sister of
mercy, a harmony in blue, white and black, possibly with a com-
panion, while through the open door at the end of the -garden the
light shines in on a flight of steps, and a nuns' refectory. It is the
only part of the Palace which possesses any mystical charm, and is
known to few.
On the other side of the gallery there are no windows. Were
there any, they would afford a view of a prison yard swarming with
women prisoners engaged in having their lunch ; this yard is only
separated by a corridor from the building allotted to the sisters of
We now come to a square on which opens out the library, a
robing room door, a large and gloomy corridor lighted by gas, and
a private door which leads to the office of the secretary to the Order.
At the end of a dark narrow passage (by pushing a glass dcor
one is in full daylight) we come to a flight of steps, with a balustrade,
and handsome but somewhat steep, descending to the cheerful
apartment occupied by the apparitor of the Order of Advocates. It
is impossible to think of the apparitor as otherwise than immortal.
As he is to-day, so he will always be, grave and polite, by name
Leon, with the manners of a majordomo who has made his fortune
and would be on good terms with all. His blonde whiskers have
grown gray, his shoulders have slightly rounded ; but we do not
notice it, and to us Leon will always be the eternal apparitor of the
Order, just as Delaunay used to be the eternal stage lover, and his
successor will only be a new incarnation of himself.
With what a kind yet lofty grace does he guide the first steps
46 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
of the candidate for forensic honours, initiate him in the ceremonies
to be observed, and teach him the traditions of the oath ! He
provides the agenda papers, distributes the printed Tables of the
Order, and is, in short, the batonniers factotum. Imbued with
reverence for the place, he must find it hard to take his plumed
cocked hat and silver chain with the pendant medal, which are the
insignia of his office, from their case without deep emotion. The
day to see him is Tuesday, when the Council meets. He is more
majestic than usual then, though quite unassuming, and salutes
with a shade of respect the ex-batonniers as they pass by. A little
after two o'clock on Tuesday, the members of the Council may be
seen descending the stairs with heavy tread towards the apparitor's
room. The procession is curious. The straight steep staircase is
well suited to stately members who are still strong and not short-
sighted ; and they take the steps slowly and regularly. But the
feeble take some time, and make the descent slowly, and walking
sideways ; the excited run down as briskly as they can, catching
at the useless rail with hurried movements of the left hand, whilst
others come down delicately, feeling the way at every step with
their foot before they set it down. All promptly disappear to the
left, at the end of a corridor, with a rapid noise of doors opening and
shutting. We are now at the Council Hall, a lofty, well-lighted apart-
ment, occupied by a table with a green cloth, around which the
elect of the Order deliberate beneath the protecting presence of the
elder Berryer, a fine pastel ; of a portrait of Dufaure, painted by
Mdlle. Nelly Jacquemart ; of one of Chaix d'Est-Ange, after
Hippolyte Flandrin, and of photographs and medallions of other
eminent counsel departed.
It will be a lucky chance for the probationer candidate if he
comes with his diploma to the secretary's office on the day when
the Council have summoned before them a member who has
committed some fault through awkwardness or inadvertence. He
will have a foretaste of the vexations of the profession at
the very moment when he is just beginning to relish its
first joys. He will see the culprit pacing up and down with
nervous but rather haughty gait ; he will note the side glances
which advocates come for some other purpose cast at one another,
each suspecting his neighbour to be the person cited before the
Council, and he will observe Leon trying to put every one at his
case, and seemingly unconscious of the coming storm.
BEFORE COURT OPENS 47
As a rule the only people who pass by Leon's table or sit in
the window-sill from which one can see the dark tree-tops of the
Place Dauphine are solicitors timidly looking for an advocate,
solicitors' clerks with papers, youthful members of the Bar come to
obtain some special information, or learned counsel waiting for
the time when the bdtonnier is open to visitors in his private room.
This is a typical lawyer's study, plainly furnished, its only orna-
ments being a bust of Gerbier by Houdon, a portrait of Dupin by
Court, a plaster medallion of Chaix d'Est-Ange taken from the
portrait by Flandrin, and the sole existing bust of Tronchet. The
room also contains a cabinet of medals which were found under
the ruins of the former council chamber, burnt in 1871, and a few
engravings of the old law courts.
In the summer the scene from the secretary's ante-chamber is
much more lively ; the eye is dazzled by the vivid green of the
trees, the white glint of the houses opposite, and the glare of
sunlight. In the stone gallery at the head of the stairs all along
the balustrade one can see advocates, looking like the figures in a
monochrome of the marriage at Cana ; walking up and down
indefatigably, rustling their black robes with violent gestures or
draping them in statuesque folds. From midday till four there is
a continual procession of advocates coming to take a drink from
the cask of fresh liquorice \vater, provided for them by the
Council. And Leon watches to see that only members of the
Paris Bar refresh themselves there ; if any intruder pushes in, he
warns him off with a severe reprimand or a stately wave of the
hand ; in serious cases he informs the Council.
The apartments allotted to the Bar include, lastly, a private
office for the secretary and one for the treasurer. To the latter
place the future probationer goes with timid steps to pay his
admission fees ; here, also, he will come later on to be inscribed on
the list of those ready to plead gratis for poor prisoners; 1 here,
lastly, if he goes on with his career during his whole life at the Bar,
is the place for paying the annual subscription, with which, it is
not at all improbable, he will be generally behindhand.
The last duty of a candidate for the probationership is to
submit to an investigation into his private affairs, and receive the
visit of an inspector nominated by the Council of the Order. As a
rule the inspector is satisfied with a talk with your porter just to
1 A barrister who pleads for nothing is called an avocat cfoff~.ce.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
see that you have not given a false address, that your apartment
does credit to the corporation which is going to take you to its
bosom, and that you do not scandalise the neighbours by your
mode of life. Conscientious inspectors those who love youth
and think of the possible votes of future electors will climb five
COCOA FOR THE ADVOCATES.
stories, if need be, and enter into a familiar conversation with the
amazed future voter. Have no fear even though a petticoat be
hanging on the back of the sofa ; the inspector will be discreet
and place himself so as not to see it. As a matter of fact the
investigation is not severe. Complaints are made that it con-
BEFORE COURT OPENS 49
stitutes an invasion of private life. But it was much worse in old
days. It was then the fashion to exclude from the Bar those who
had failed to show respect to their parents, had declined public
office, had been seen in dubious resorts, or had squandered their
patrimony in riotous living. The Bar was also closed to those who
were not Catholics, and to those who happened to be blind or deaf.
At the law courts to-day one has a choice of all religions ; the
deaf are numerous, and the one-eyed, if not the blind, are legion.
After the inspector's visit comes the candidate's formal admission
by the Council, and, the same night, a delightful letter from the
inspector informing you of the fact and addressing you as " our
A few days afterwards the candidate, conducted by Leon
and presented by the bdtonnier, takes the oath before the chief
president of the Court of Appeal. All is now finished. The
probationer will then enter on his duties ; during the ensuing
three or five years he will assist at a certain number of con-
ferences held every Monday, signing his name on a slip of paper
in the office in front of the public auction room ; l twice a year he
will be present at the assembly of the sections into which the Bar
is divided ; at the end of this period he will be entitled to have
his name entered on the Table of the Bar.
If, by the conclusion of the fifth year, he does not ask to be
entered, from fear of the patent fees, the treasurer of the Council
will send for him and, after a short address in praise of the
profession, will place before him the alternative of having his name
entered or bidding good-bye to the gown.
We shall again see the probationer being sworn in, and
taking part in the Monday conferences. Let us now describe his
experiences at an assembly of the sections. 2
THE ASSEMBLY OF THE SECTIONS
In the early morning, at half-past nine or ten o'clock, our
probationer makes his way to the Council Chamber or to one of
the rooms which go to form the library. Other probationers are
there in legal costume, grouped round a table at which is sitting
1 Salle dts criees.
2 Or meeting of the Columns. The French is relation de colonnes.
50 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
a member of the Council. With him, as secretary, is a probationer
who has been classed among the first twelve at the last conference.
The member of the committee expatiates at length on the subjects
mentioned in the programme, and puts some difficult questions to
the probationers present. These young men, who a moment ago
were displaying their new feathers in the galleries of the Palace,
suddenly fall back into the nervousness of the candidate, and give
answers at random which they fancy may suit the examiner's taste,
while the secretary smiles with an expression of ominous sarcasm.
From time to time an orator appears ; a probationer crammed
with facts, who gets to the root of the controversy, and corners the
president of the section.
The gravest questions of the profession are discussed in these
Questions of incompatibility.
Can an advocate be a teacher of the deaf and dumb ? No.
Can he be an actor ? Yes, but only if he accepts no salary.
Can he be a doctor ? No, for he cannot be at the law courts
and with his patients at the same time ; an advocate owes all his
time to his clients.
The advocate, however, can be a deputy or a senator. Is this
because a representative of the people is supposed never to attend
in his seat in Parliament ?
The question of fees forms a subject by itself ; it comprises a
chapter full of interest for members of the junior Bar who,
having never pleaded otherwise than gratis, are delighted when
they hear mention of that rare bird, the client who pays.
The theory laid down for their instruction is simple. " Fees
must be offered by the client of his own free will ; the advocate
cannot claim them."
The mere statement of this theory immediately strikes the
probationer dumb. He asks himself how the president of his
section, in ordinary matters a business-like man, comfortably off
and free from all chimeras, has been able to remain so long in such
a profession. Some presidents of sections, either too sceptical or
over sincere, will, it is true, state this theory, prove its wisdom, and
point out that it is based on disinterestedness and devotion, the
foundation of the true advocate's character. They will show,
moreover, that its aim is to check demands which under the
circumstances would naturally tend to become excessive. But, all
BEFORE COURT OPENS 51
the same, they have no hesitation in enumerating the methods by
which practice has been able to effect a compromise with principle.
Either the solicitor, on whom there are no restrictions, under-
takes to ask for counsel's fees, or the barrister, at the second
visit for it would not be proper on the first occasion after a certain
amount of circumlocution mentions the amount of his fees to the
client ; if the latter turns a deaf ear, it is usual to send him a
letter to the effect that another interview is urgently needed, " for
final instructions " so the formula runs and in the recesses of
the consulting room the barrister asks for what he wants : one
must earn one's living. Demands by letter, however, are strictly
forbidden : so long as the demand is made by word of mouth, any
method may be used, at any rate before the suit is tried.
The trial once ended, the advocate has no resource against an
obstinate debtor ; and, if he clamours for his due, the debtor will
complain to the Council.
" Wherefore, my young friends, let those of you who do not
disdain pecuniary considerations remember to ask for your fees
beforehand, and by word of mouth." We have had the theory ;
this is the practice.
The probationer is a little reassured ; but his brow will soon
again grow cloudy. After the chapter dealing with fees, comes
the lesson on seeking for clients. How are clients to discover
unknown talent ? What means are there of attracting their
attention ? None whatever. To canvass for clients is forbidden.
The advocate must await the hoped-for client in his own chambers,
at certain fixed hours, which he is not even allowed to print at the
head of his writing paper. Unless the young advocate possess
zealous patrons who will keep him before the public, family
influence, or the interest of some important man of business,
clients will not come to him.
There is a well-worn legend of the advocate who made himself
known by a brilliant argument in some suit without remuneration ;
but do not believe it, my young friends ; do not believe that real
clients will come to you because your name has been five or six
times in the newspapers, and because you have won a great success in
some sensational case. In eight days, unless you happen to be a
regular pleader at the assizes, nobody will think any more about you ;
and during your consultation hours you will wait in vain for a ring
at the bell. Unless you have laid in a large stock of patience,
52 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
unless you can stand all kinds of disappointment, if you cannot
help envying blockheads who are luckier than yourself, if the joy
of pleading once in a way does not console you for all the rest, or
if you do not feel any aptitude for making advances in the right
quarter or for forming advantageous friendships, then hang up
your gown in the robing room, lock up your cap, and try a more
remunerative career. Amen.
The " lessons" above described are usually given in the library.
It is open for advocates at eleven o'clock. Let us pay it a visit,
although it is closed to laymen, with the exception that they may
stand on the threshold to summon some legal friend within, and
may enter if they wish to speak to the amiable librarian, M.
Boucher. But perhaps you would like to hear its history ? Know
then that the advocates' library dates from 1708. It was founded
out of the money left by Etienne Gabriau de Riparfonds, advocate
in the Parliament of Paris. This worthy loved his profession more
than anything in the world ; he thought also that "an advocate who
can speak is worth nothing unless he has gone through solid studies
which ripen the mind, and render forensic controversy clear and
full of instruction for the listeners." And therefore he bequeathed
to the Bar of Paris an annuity of 800 francs a year and the
library, composed partly of the law books given him by his god-
father, partly of the additions made thereto by himself "on all
and every occasion that the state of his fortune or his family had
After four years had been spent in looking for premises, the
library was first established in 1708, rather far from the law courts,
in a gallery rented from the Archbishop of Paris. It was situated
on the third floor of a pavilion in the outer court of the episcopal
palace, between Notre-Dame and the Seine.
The books numbered 10,000 altogether, and there were few
readers; in 1725 the library was in the care of an old woman
assisted by a young girl of seventeen ; and they were not troubled
much by intruders. But on this spot were held the meetings of
the Council of the Order, the sittings of the committee for free
consultations, and the conferences, assemblies where the seniors
came to hear essays read by the junior bar.
BEFORE COURT OPENS 53
An engraving by Saint-Aubin, minutely described and com-
mented upon by M. Herbet in The Annual Transactions of the
Conference of Advocates for 1889, represents a conference at the
library in 1776.
At the Revolution the Order of Advocates was suppressed, and
their books confiscated by the State. They eventually fell to the
Court of Cassation ; and, at the library of the Supreme Tribunal,
books may still be found stamped with the words " Bibliotheque
des avocats, 1762." Even before the re-establishment of the Order,
the library had been re-formed ; an old advocate, named Nicolas
Ferey, bequeathed his library in 1806 to the Order of Advocates,
" under whatever name it might please his Majesty to re-establish
it" : and the Order, on its reconstruction in 1810, was authorised
to accept the legacy.
From this date, the advocates' library remained fixed in a
narrow, dark corner in the midst of the buildings occupied by the
Court of Appeal, near the present Chamber of Indictments, 1 at the
end of the gloomy corridor allotted to the ushers of this court.
It grew gradually wealthier from gifts made by retiring barristers,
till in 1870 it contained 25,613 volumes.
Then came another catastrophe ; one of the rooms of which
the library was formed was burnt during the last days of the
Commune, many precious books being destroyed, in spite of the
devotion of the bdtonnier, Maitre Rousse, and of the librarian,
M. Boucher, father of the present librarian. At the present day,
the losses have been made good, and the younger M. Boucher has
38,000 volumes under his care.
The dark, narrow library of old has been transformed into a
comfortable establishment. But the change has only been effected
recently. The library at first consisted of a corridor overlooking
the exquisite court where the nuns of the prison ply their task ;
the corridor opened into two narrow chambers where the books
stood in piles upon piles. The present installation was soon
finished by opening a large hall in communication with the
corridor, which was turned into a gallery ; it only remained to
unpack the judicial records heaped up in this place. This work
lasted eleven years, and it was not till the beginning of the
October sittings in 1890 that, thanks to the persistence of the
Batonnier, Maitre Cresson, energetically seconded by those advo-
1 Chambre des inises en accusation.
54 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
cates who were members of the Municipal Council, the actual
rearrangement of the books could be completed.
The Bar have now got a library to be proud of. A vast reading
room, with the gallery as an annexe, two stories of book-cases
protected by wire gauze, the upper part being rendered accessible
by a light iron foot-bridge ; a long table, as if intended for
conferences, some smaller ones that might do for supper parties,
and writing materials everywhere. The decoration is of the
approved kind. There are two pieces of Gobelins tapestry
between the windows, representing Bonaparte surrounded by
diplomatists and soldiers ; above one of the windows is a
memorial plate :
" CETTE BIBLIOTHEQUE A ETE
OUVERTE LE 1 6 OCTOBRE 1 890
SOUS LE BATON NAT DE ME. CRESSON.
Scattered about, and forming a collection useful to biographers,
are the busts of old batonniers : an enormous one of Jules Favre, by
Barrias ; one of Paillet, beautifully carved by Pradier ; a graceful
one of Marie with the hair curled, the cheeks creased, the lips set ;
one of Nicolet, by his wife, delicious in its charm and ironical
elegance. There is another one which merits particular mention ;
at the foot of the staircase leading from the great hall to the foot-
bridge is a bust of Gerbier, an exquisite face, with an expression of
raillery softened by abundant good humour. While the fire of 1871
was at its height, Maitre Rousse might have been seen " carrying
this bust into safety, through a maze of staircases, beams and ropes,
like pious ^Eneas on the last night of Ilium, with old Anchises and
his household godson his shoulders."
A deep recess shows us the office of the librarian. As already
stated, he is M. Boucher, son of a librarian, and, one may hope,
father of a librarian, for his son is already employed in the place.
His politeness is proverbial, and, with a charming grace, he has
placed his memoirs and papers at our disposal. Of the two other
apartments which in times gone by formed the whole library, one,
called the newspaper-room, has, over the looking-glass, a portrait of
Riparfonds, in red robes, the chin bordered with a white beard that
looks like mould ; this apartment is still the favourite working
BEFORE COURT OPENS 55
place of those who feel the cold and are enamoured of the past.
The other, the parlotte, is a dark corner which does not answer to
the name prematurely bestowed upon it, for few persons go there,
and none talk in it. 1
To make up for this, the conversation in the reading room is over-
powering. Advocates engaged in research appear at an early hour
and settle down to work comfortably. Nothing disturbs them save
the passing by of a learned friend, who, having come down to the
court too soon, reads a brief through absently or goes to have a
chat with the librarian. But readers begin to increase, running
in hurriedly to copy a decree or find an answer in some out-of-the-
way authority. There are long promenades from shelf to shelf in
search of the right volume, and the librarian comes and goes, ac-
companied by his assistant, as polite as himself. Then come the
idlers, still in official or already in ordinary costume; they say good-
day to one, shake hands with one another, sit down by a learned
friend's side and begin to talk. If there be a worker in front of them,
he fidgets, goes feverishly to look through a volume on the shelves,
returns to take his place, and sits down to the table, with his head
between his hands and his fingers on his ears ; at last, tired out, he
goes to do some talking on his own account farther off. Books
and papers are left behind in picturesque profusion, and new-comers,
not venturing to disturb this grand collection, have great difficulty
in finding a place. There are some terrible talkers at the library,
and these are not always those whose voices are most heard in
court. They speak in high tones and with the air of great authority,
give opinions on difficulties stated by their neighbours, and tell
professional stories of interminable length. They are especially
dangerous just after the vacation ; and when they encounter old
campaigners as voluble as themselves, there is no resource but
flight. The leaders of the Bar are rarely seen in the library; Maitre
Cresson comes sometimes to smile upon his work ; and the member
of the Council specially charged with supervision of the library
occasionally passes through with correct and official bearing. Only
three or four seniors are in the habit of coming to work at the
library with their secretaries ; on these occasions they choose the
little tables, with seats for two, which stand in the gallery. One
may be seen giving his instructions in monologue; another dictating
something to a young man of talent ; another from his place directs
1 Two other rooms are about to be opened, a smoking room and a lavatory.
56 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
some research into the mysteries of jurisprudence ; another who
prefers the newspaper-room distributes papers to be copied out and
works his way through a pile of books. Less regular visitors run
in, write some letters, consult a guide book or a directory, and
In the winter, at three o'clock, when work is at its height and
every one engrossed in his subject, the three attendants begin to
put the books together. So much the worse for the student who
has left his place for a minute ; he returns to find the volumes
which he had carefully picked out, and opened at the right place,
put back on their shelves ; this is a bitter pill, for at four o'clock
the library closes. Vainly does the student turn a deaf ear to the re-
presentations of the attendant or librarian, he must leave his copying
unfinished. When will the library have the electric light? In
summer, closing time is at five o'clock. But there are still some
people who complain when they are turned out, and who have only
been there about twenty minutes.
THE ELECTIONS OF THE ORDER
For two or three days in July, decks are cleared, and work put
a stop to at the library on account of the elections, that is, the
elections of the bdtonnier and of the members of the Council.
During these days little groups gather all about the place, with
scouts going from one to another ; some youthful canvassers in
the doorway silently, or with a cautious word and a friendly
gesture, remind members that So-and-so is a candidate ; the
bolder ones seize on every arrival, and follow him to the voting
table with a vigorous and animated flow of words.
In old days a long table used to be set out in the corridor. It
was divided by little partitions, like those on the counter of some
telegraph offices, into separate compartments where the elector could
fill in his ballot paper, sheltered from prying eyes ; and much
amusement was to bs had from the game of standing behind a
writer so as to see over his shoulder.
It is still amusing to note the different styles of writing, the vague
promises, the encouraging pressure of the hand, the familiar comedy
of the procession of voters past the ballot-box, and the formal
BEFORE COURT OPENS
counting of the votes. In a word, these elections are like other
elections, but more secret.
On the day for the renewal of the Council the crowd is
particularly noisy, for there are many ambitious of election.
There is no occasion to call for scrutineers, parties of volunteers
undertake the work, and when it comes to casting up the votes,
the old hands show their skill at
the game. The leader of each
party calls out his figure, and
there is a competition among the
bystanders who shall be the first
to add the figures up. There are
specialists in calculation who are
never seen at the library except
on this day.
The election of batonnier is
simpler. There is only one place
to be filled, and the coun-
ting of the votes goes on
while the spectators are
still passing through the
excitement of the ballot.
The successful candidate's
name is rarely known at
an early stage of the pro-
ceedings. At first, strokes
of luck alternate with al-
most equal regularity for
each candidate, or if one
of them gets markedly
ahead, and his partisans
begin to reckon on vic-
tory, the other regains the
advantage by an unex-
pected run of good fortune.
The scene resembles a fine game of billiards where careful aim is
taken before every stroke, and where the stake is the highest honour
to which the perfect advocate aspires.
An absolute majority being at last obtained, the victor's friends
run to him with the good news.
IN THE LIBRARY.
58 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
There are cases on record of friends being too hasty, and
telling a candidate that he is successful before the votes have been
all recorded. In these cases the anecdote gets much discussed in
the corridors, and ensures the candidate's success at a second
trial. Meanwhile the expectant bdtonnier is waiting with an air
of indifference in the Salle des Pas-Perdus, or one of nervousness
in the Council Chamber, where the result is officially reported by
our friend Leon. Then, stirred by the news, and without having
had time to compose himself, we may see him in the library
before the voting table, face to face with the retiring bdtonnier.
The latter with perfect calmness congratulates him in a speech so
worded that, with a few trifling variations, it could just as well have
been addressed to the other candidate had he been successful.
Equally studied is the speech made by the incoming president
for every candidate prepares his speech, hard though it may be to
swallow it again in case of defeat ; but it is always a little
disordered by the speaker's agitation. This in fact gives the
speech its charm. Thus the happy man inevitably talks of his
modest youth, of the first step in his career, of the folly of any one
who should then have -prophesied such an honour for him, and of
the efforts he will make to prove worthy of it ; and he sheds tears
while his supporters cheer him and sceptics smile.
In the October following the bdtonnier may again be seen in
the same place, doing the honours of the house, and engaged in
reading, with an independence born of success, a long discourse
on the duties of the profession, followed by a series of obituary
notices which custom requires to be given with some literary grace.
The election of the bdtonnier only presents amusing features
once in two years, for it is customary to reappoint the same
batonnier twice running.
IN THE CORRIDORS
The advocate is at home in every part of the Palace ; it is he
who takes up most room, it is he who predominates everywhere by
force of noise and numbers. From the robing rooms to the library,
he flows into every corner. In old days the chief abode of his
BEFORE COURT OPENS 59
sovereignty was the buvette, a little restaurant inside the Palace.
This had at first been situated in the Galerie Marchande ; it was
then moved to the residence occupied by the Prefect of Police,
while from 1879 it was set up in the corridors reserved for the
prefect's staff, above the advocates' library, and close to the lost
property office. This was the favourite place for conversation, the
room being under the care of the Council of the Order. In 1863
it was redecorated, Jules Favre being bdtonnier. At present
jurymen engaged in criminal and compensation cases, and persons
employed in the Prefecture of Police have an equal right with
the barristers to use the place. This, added to its gloomy
aspect (a paltry hall lighted from a little court where building
operations are always going on), has caused the buvette to lose some
of its old renown.
The buvette still numbers some faithful friends who drop in for
a cup of coffee at the first moment of rest, or who come there
to wait during an adjournment of the court. There are regular
customers, and counsel pressed for time who, to save the trouble
of taking off their gown between two cases, come there for lunch.
Poor Maitre Lejoindre, the most brilliant story-teller in the law
courts, was at his best here, as was Maitre Oscar Falateuf, in the
waiting times before the sittings of the first chamber of the court.
His cap at the back of his head, with a genial smile, bright, good-
tempered, and very clever, he would reel off story after story till
his auditors forgot all about their lunch.
Why does not the Council of the Order, in the spirit of Jules
Favre, restore the glories of the buvette ?
In this age of syndicates, co-operative societies and clubs, why
does not the Bar, reserving the library for its original purpose as a
place of study, start a club-room in proximity to it, where members
could lunch pleasantly on moderate terms, talk at their ease, read
the daily papers, and, if need be, prepare their arguments and
receive their clients. This, it seems to us, would be quite_/;j de siede;
so they should lose no time over it.
Meanwhile, let us return to the everyday life of the Palace.
The day's work is at its height.
Nothing can be seen but a cloud of black gowns through
which are passing bewildered citizens, insinuating men of business,
and a few fair dames in search of adventures.
In the Galerie Marchande, in front of the Bosc robing room,
6O THE PARIS LAW COURTS
there is a crush of advocates who are having a talk before they take
off their gowns, or are waiting to get away. A stir runs through the
groups when a lady of alluring air, and crowned with a most
effective hat, passes through in search of her counsel or some friend
who has promised to show her round.
In the aquarium, advocates in full dress are engaged in
smoking and speaking well of their comrades. On a green bench,
in the full glare of the light, clients of both sexes are waiting for
their counsel to pass by, when they seize hold of him and get a
consultation on the spot. Every five minutes " lines of English
lady tourists, moving as if by clock-work, come out from the
balcony of the Sainte-Chapelle, pass along the gallery and
disappear in the direction of the Salle des Pas-Perdus."
The Salle des Pas-Perdus makes a fine show, with its broad bay
windows looking out on the Boulevard du Palais, its massive
pillars, the beauty and simplicity of its proportions ; and when
crowded with the legal world it is full of life and movement. The
noise one hears does not resemble the confused clamour of the
Stock Exchange, nor the humming of a hive of bees at their work ;
followers of the law do not put on the busy manner of financiers,
and have nothing in common with bees except the sting. No, the
noise is so like that of low and sustained conversation, that a
superficial and malicious observer might christen the place " Salle
du Temps Perdu."
The appearance of the Salle des Pas-Perdus is constantly
varying. It is as changeable as the heavens, as woman, as the law.
On election or other important days, crowds form round
prominent persons, voices are raised, and the once gentle murmur
of conversation increases in pitch till it equals the din of a public
meeting On Monday, which is the probationer's, day, ordinary
clients leave the place to these young gentlemen. Wednesday and
Saturday are auction days for movables. On Thursday, the
day for forced sales of land and houses, the spectator will see the
lawyers in stronger force than usual, engaged with a special class
of clients, the investors in real property. These are well-set-up
gentlemen, walking up and down as if they were at the Stock
Exchange, pillars of society, with good banking accounts, who come
to ask a solicitor to bid for them ; with these come shop-keepers
or yeomen bewildered by their new excitement, who hesitate at
the very last moment, and in turn ask advice or make sugges-
BEFORE COURT OPENS 6l
tions to their man of business ; there are married couples who
thought to share the struggle of bidding, and who end by quar-
relling ; and little groups in mourning who follow the solicitor
as if he were a good shepherd. Occasionally a well-dressed woman
On Wednesday ladies involved in some divorce case move
quickly through the crowd, and disappear behind a staircase
on their way to a hall where we shall again meet them.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays the groups, not so lively as usual,
and made up in most part of laymen, collect in front of the door,
underneath the clock, leading to judges' chambers ; and knots of
men, not remarkable for cleanliness, consult a large placard at the
side which contains the list of applications to be made in judges'
On Friday, as there is nothing special doing, and as solicitors
rarely come to court on that day, advocates are fewer than ever.
The sound of talking is less continuous, and strikes the ear with a
slighter rumbling ; and the building soon resumes its early morning
stillness, only broken by two or three pairs of laggard talkers walk-
ing up and down.
The majority of the regular frequenters who give the Salle des
Pas-Perdus its peculiar character are men of law, whether counsel
or solicitors. They use it as a meeting place for the discussion of
their common concerns. They talk, sometimes passing one in
front of the other, as if they were playing a complicated game of
four corners with words ; they talk, standing quite still, in little
groups ; and they talk, as they do the hundred paces which measure
the length of the hall in bands of four or five. You will note the
different bearing of people while waiting till the man they want
has finished his conversation.
Some give him a touch on the shoulder, and then plant them
selves two steps off; others, talking all the time on some in-
different matter with some one else, watch his gestures, and keep
pace with his every movement.
In this crowd of figures, all wearing the same costume, it is an
arduous task to find the man one wants. Often one does not know
him, and the inquirer's first step is to question some acquaintances,
who are beginning their solitary promenade, as to his whereabouts.
As often as not he is dark with a pointed beard, or a young man-
1 R6le des referes.
62 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
one is not certain about his complexion with a small moustache
which information throws little light on the object in view. In the
case of a barrister, one can bethink one's self of his characteristics,
the way he carries his brief bag, or what corner of the hall he prefers
For instance he may be always found with a large, worn, and
bulky brief-bag, with rents so broad that the books inside nearly
slip through them ; or he may be one of those who come to the
law courts in a fashionable coat, like amateurs, with their bag
neatly doubled up, the list of engagements fastened to the outside ;
another has a way of holding his bag at arm's length by a band or
leather strap ; if you are looking for an ex-bdtonnier , who is counsel
for the Rothschilds, you will recognise him by his broad shoulders,
by his wonderful eye-glass, his snub nose and the mass of papers
held nonchalantly against his hip; or possibly you will be told that
the man you are looking for carries his briefs, with the title upper-
most against his left breast, as a nurse does her baby.
Out of a thousand figures you will mark that of the tall
advocate with an eye-glass and stooping shoulders, an ex-batonnier,
who stands with his arm thrown like a black mantle round his
.charmed and bewildered client.
Maitre Allou might have been always found on a corner of
the bench which stands near the first chamber of the Court of
Appeal, listening gravely, with his proud weary air, to any learned
friends who came to pay their court. He has had no successor.
Other advocates may still be seen sitting in this same corner, but
they have no mark to distinguish them from the crowd. The
bench in front has its regular patrons of different kind ; but they
do not stay there long. On the other benches are advocates of
every class, resting for a moment to look at their briefs, worn out
with work, or sick of clients whom they do not care to show round
A solicitor is much harder to find than an advocate ; a solicitor
in his gown can be distinguished at once as he wears no hood ;
in place of the large macaroon-shaped boss with two hanging
flaps, he only has two buttons, sometimes not even that, on
his left shoulder. But solicitors have few individual characteris-
tics, and very often they do not wear a gown. To be sure of
finding them, the best thing to do is to make for the part of the
building reserved for them, which lies at the right end of the
Salle des Pas-Perdus, towards the Boulevard du Palais, a modest
BEFORE COURT OPENS 63
apartment containing a little partition, round the grating in
which hover solicitors' clerks with documents. Instead, however,
of entering there the seeker should mount the stairs, knock at the
door of a bare dressing room, ask if the solicitor required is at
the law courts, and lie in wait for him.
Conversation is difficult in the Salle des Pas-Perdus even with
a friend, if he happens to be an advocate with much practice. You
think you have got him, you fix him with your eye ; then, a
moment's inattention, and there is nobody there ! He has dis-
appeared behind a pillar ; and you run through the hall to find
him flown. So you, in your turn, join one of the bands of
strollers who are discussing some legal or other point, while the
bell for auctions or judges' chambers rings incessantly. Many look
on it as a duty to frequent the Salle des Pas-Perdus, especially
when they have nothing to do. Only a few of the foremost
advocates can afford not to appear there, and solicitors advise
junior men to come and show themselves with a heavy brief-bag,
stuffed with the first thing that comes handy, with a melon if they
are hard up. For many, barring the melon, it is a pleasant task.
It is there that a man will meet the comrades and friends whom
a long brotherhood in arms makes more welcome or dearer every
day ; it is a place for learning in friendly talk all the news both
within and without; and thither come legislators to put off party
bitterness and sharpen their reason on the daring humour of their
In that case, it will be said, it is a place for losing a great deal
of time. Many people would think it wiser to go straight to the
robing room the moment court is closed. To these wiseacres a few
points may be suggested for consideration.
Let them remember that there is no existence so wearing as
that of an advocate in large practice, that for him the physical
fatigue of the Bar is doubled by the work he has do in chambers,
and that the time spent on this daily promenade between a speech
in court and an interview with a client is a necessary relaxation
for his mind. Let them also remember that this constant
friction with men of his own profession, not only in court but
outside as well, can only benefit him, and that this time lost for
practical work has special value in developing his critical
Let them remember, lastly, that to lose time is a necessity of
64 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
the profession. Better lose it in the Salle des Pas-Perdus than
waiting one's turn to address the judge in the stifling atmosphere
of court. Is it not, moreover, the place for meeting solicitors,
for making appointments, for settling plans of campaign, for
showing letters ? The gentlemen of the long robe are all
However, it must be owned that the glories of the Salle des
Pas-Perdus are on the wane. Men of wit do not spend so much
time there as of yore. The reason is they no longer find the same
charrn there. The judicial family is becoming too numerous,com-
petition too keen ; and those who have abandoned law for politics,
without obtaining either the honour or success they hoped for, have
imported into the legal profession an element of discord which it
needs much philosophy, disinterestedness and mutual indulgence to
extinguish. Despite these ominous shadows, there is no spot in
the Palace so loved by the lawyers, or so interesting, and so
accessible to the general public as the Salle des Pas-Perdus.
There visitors wander at their leisure, a little bewildered, but
amused ; they gaze at the marble statue of Berryer carved by
Chapu, who gave him as companions two graceful figures, Fidelity
and Eloquence ; they fall into raptures before the ponderous monu-
ment of Malesherbes, the decoration of which is generally com-
pleted by two or three advocates in the flesh, leaning elegantly
against the pedestal : the English tourists read in their Baedeker
that it is by Dumont, the bas-relief being by Cortot, and the
statues on the side by Bosio. These statues represent, it seems,
France and Fidelity, which has called forth the sarcastic remark
that poor Malesherbes has no claim to Eloquence.
THE OLD " PARLOTTE."
There is an annexe to the Salle des Pas-Perdus which is inter-
esting to notice. It is a little room, entered from beneath the in-
side double staircase of the Salle, and communicating with the
sixth chamber. In old days it was called the Parlotte. But this
name being from recent years restricted to a part of the library,
the old Parlotte is now only a private writing room for advocates.
The last of its frequenters in the days of its greatness was Maitre
BEFORE COURT OPENS 65
Malapert, a veteran freelance who could never help being inspired
with a real passion in his clients' affairs. It has a good fire in the
winter which makes it look comfortable. When writing materials
run short, please address the usher of the sixth chamber. Facing
the door of the Parlotte is another little door, painted brown. A
push will reveal a winding staircase set in open ironwork, through
the bars of which can be seen an immense empty hall with grace-
ful columns, like a crypt of the Mont-Saint-Michel forgotten
beneath the Salle des Pas-Perdus ; it is the Salle de St. Louis, also
called the guard hall of Philip the Fair. It is attached to the Con-
ciergerie and is closed to the public. It can only be seen properly
in all its splendour from this little staircase, which few know of.
Let us go down it, but do not tell.
DURING our wanderings round the Salle des Pas-Perdus, the
courts have been in full swing. They are mostly furnished in a
uniform style. In the fore-part of the hall are rows of oak
benches with backs, one of them having also well-stuffed cushions
for counsel, a long shelf the bar being placed in front to hold
their papers. In the middle is a gangway leading to the pretorium,
as it is called, a narrow open space which separates the counsel
from the judges. In former times it was ironically called the
Park ; it is now occupied by the usher on duty. At the end of
the hall is the judges' bench, a long oak table with armchairs
for three or four persons ; on the side, between the windows, is
the dai's reserved for the honourable representative of the public
ministry, and close to this is the registrar's desk. The walls are
panelled in oak, and papered in dark blue with a pattern of some
sort or other. The ceiling is white with gilt cornices. A clock
stands in a recess carved with oak-leaves. There is a plaster bust
of the Republic identical with that to be seen in every mayor's
office ; and, facing the public, hangs a picture of the crucifixion, the
usual faded figure on a bluish-grey background.
The doors open late ; at noon, sometimes at a quarter-past
twelve, sometimes not till half-past. How different from the days
when the bar had to be at the chatelet at sunrise, allowing only
for the short time needed to hear a low mass ! The first move-
ment begins in the corridors behind the courts leading to the
vice-presidents' private rooms. There is only one president for each
tribunal, and he sits in the first chamber ; in each of the other
chambers the presiding judge is a vice-president or the senior judge
present. In the cramped waiting-rooms counsel are growing
IN COURT 67
impatient ; they are waiting for the vice-president to ask him
for some ticklish postponement, requiring explanations which the
petitioner would rather give in a little casual chit-chat than in
a formal application when the cause list is called over. This
learned gentleman is witness at a marriage ceremony, and has
only just time to keep his appointment ; another will be detained
all day by " family business," a wide phrase covering all kinds of
excuses, from the sickness of a near relative to an assignation with
a pretty woman ; another is not ready, his case is not yet prepared,
he has not yet received from his client the indispensable documents
(in plain terms his fees) ; another is holding a brief for a learned
friend who is ill or gone into the country. Here comes a youthful
clerk whose master has merely said to him : " Go and see the
president ; I can't be in court to-day." And he is thinking of the
stereotyped phrase he is to use, rather nervously, mumbling the
words to himself beforehand. Several gentlemen, who in a moment
will be transformed into magistrates in full costume, glide towards
the council chamber, a place which serves as robing-room and
meeting place for the magistrates of each court.
Suddenly there is a stir among the advocates in the waiting
room ; the officer, surly or obsequious as the case may be, clears
the way, and opens the door for a busy-looking man in civilian
dress ; it is the president. Quick follows the stream of applicants.
Advocates follow advocates, pushing against one another as they
pass the door. The president, with his nose in his wardrobe,
listens to the requests for postponements, which, one after another,
are poured into his ear ; he listens to the last as he turns round
with his waistcoat, sometimes with his shirt uncovered, and one
arm in the air as it is being thrust into the flowing sleeve of his
gown. Now he is ready. Nobody else can be received. Every
one must be in court. And the stream, not a very broad one after
all, makes for the bar and into the pretorium. This is the time for
good stories and traditional anecdotes, for the careless talk of advo-
cates who lead each other on. Groups of standing listeners gather
round the seniors, who seat themselves comfortably on the cushioned
benches, and repartees, to which long practice has given keenness,
flash through the air. Men try their epigrams here just as fencers
try their foils against a wall. There are a few younger talkers, bold
juniors or sons of advocates or solicitors, who follow their fathers'
profession ; but they stand aloof from the crowd, engaged in some
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
grave debate among themselves, or dreaming of the pleasant
excursion they might be making to St. Cloud, with a fair friend,
on one of the river steamboats.
A door now opens at the back, a voice announces the entry
of the court, and the judges, in black robes with ermine collars,
and caps bordered with silver lace, enter and take their seats on the
bench, which is not far removed from and not
much raised above the bar. They are of every
age, of every appearance, and of every char-
acter. With few exceptions the magistrate is
no longer, as heretofore, of a fixed type. He
is manifold, different from what one would
expect, always changing, like humanity itself.
You may see, issuing from the door at the
back, now a judge with heavy beard, cap over
one ear, and robe unbrushed ; now one who
resembles a spick-and-span wax doll, or a
lackadaisical aesthete ; now an old gentleman,
so broken down that he needs support and
seems on the verge of a paralytic stroke, ac-
companied by a stately individual with long
From a sketch by P. Renouard. grey whiskers, and a nervous man who is con-
stantly scratching himself; at another time
appears a sleepy judge, who rolls about as he walks ; then one so
short-sighted that he has to feel his way ; then a young man, with
pale austere features, or a big fat fellow, the picture of good temper.
The three or four judges have taken their seats, the deputy who
represents the Procureur has ensconced himself in the shade
between the two windows, and the registrar holds his pen ready
CALLING THE CAUSE LIST
41 Usher of the court, call the cause list."
The usher, to whom these words of the presiding judge are
addressed, is not an usher in knee breeches and a silver chain ; he
is a very respectable gentleman, perhaps a doctor of laws ; he wears
a plain gown, like that of the solicitor whose managing clerk he
was, until he got tired of waiting to step into his employer's
business. Instead of a doctor of laws, an ordinary manservant
IN COURT . 69
with strong lungs and able to read would do the work much
better ; for it only consists in calling out in a loud voice the names
of the parties on the cause list, and in crying " Silence " every now
and then. Now it is possible to be a doctor of laws and yet have
a weak voice, and be ill-fitted to read out a list of names. As
for the issuing of writs, the ushers could perform that duty quite
as well without being compelled to spend their weary days
But let us avoid polemics.
In high falsetto, in deep bass, or in dumb show, the usher of the
court begins reading.
Trichet v. Trichet !
Poteau v. Duparquet !
THE PRESIDENT. No answer ? I must warn the solicitors
that unless they appear this day week, the case will be struck out.
Caffin v, Lamouche !
A BOY'S SHRILL VOICE. To stand for hearing, if the court
THE PRESIDENT (in a matter-of-fact tone], Stands.
Chamoin v. Pingouin !
VOICE OF AN ADVOCATE (who has just come iii). To stand
first, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT (ivith a sweet smile]. First after the others.
Durand v. Pichard !
A DEEP VOICE. I appear for M. Durand, but I don't see my
opponent. I cannot go on in his absence.
THE PRESIDENT (in Jus judicial tone}. We will hear you all
the same ; your opponent will be heard next week.
THE DEEP VOICE. But, Mr. President, I shall have to state
my case all over again next week.
THE PRESIDENT (softening}. I will see if there are other cases
enough to occupy the sitting. Usher, go on calling the paper.
Labat v. her husband.
COUNSEL (with a bald head, smiling}. Mr. President, my
learned friend writes to say that he is to be married to-day.
THE PRESIDENT (in a rage). Then if everybody was getting
married, it would be impossible to try a single case ; the court
would have to rise at one o'clock. This must remain on the paper.
It was set down for hearing three years ago. Your learned friend
has not been on the point of getting married all that time.
7O THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The advocate makes a frightful grimace and a gesture of
despair ; in reality, he is delighted at the prospect of arguing
without his learned friend.
Boulanger v. Dupont!
A WHINING VOICE. Mr. President, my client is very ill. I
have been unable to see him, and was told that he was dying.
THE PRESIDENT (calming down). Dying ! You had better
lose no time in getting on with the case, so as to avoid the risk of
having to revive proceedings.
Navet v. Canard !
A SECRETARY'S VOICE. Mr. President, my principal is de-
tained in another court.
THE PRESIDENT (beside himself}. Very well, you shall argue
it in his place.
THE SECRETARY. Mr. President, I haven't got the brief; I
know nothing about the case.
THE PRESIDENT (obdurate). I say that you shall argue in his
place. Your principal must hand over some of his business to
you, if he has too much !
Barreau v. Lachaize !
A LOUD COARSE VOICE. The case is not ready.
THE PRESIDENT (with his eyes starting out of his head}. So
much the worse.
Chicot v. Mouton !
Two VOICES TOGETHER. In course of being settled.
THE PRESIDENT (wounded]. Oh !
Labbe v. Leglise !
Two OTHER VOICES (equally together}. We wait the pleasure
of the court.
THE PRESIDENT. Will the case take long ?
THE Two VOICES. Oh ! the whole sitting, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT (brightening up}. All the other cases will
stand over till this day week, unless the parties interested apply
for special days to be fixed. Then several counsel ask that their
suits may be declared ready for hearing, which is begging a favour
of the court.
We have given a short specimen of what goes on at the reading
of the cause list. It varies in every possible way, according to the
temperament of the president and the excuses made by the counsel.
But we have hardly exaggerated. The coincidences of ridiculous
names are more frequent than would be believed, and the rage of
certain presidents at seeing their business slip away from them by
one adjourment after another rises to frenzy. There are some
who would gladly try the lookers-on rather than leave before the
On the other hand, there are some who smile gratefully on
counsel who ask for causes to stand over, and close the sitting at
the first chance. Others enliven
the reading of the cause list by
facetious remarks, never refuse a
request for a postponement when
it is drolly made ; they love to
get a laugh out of the spectators,
and generally are the delight of
the idlers in court. The cause
list ended, the president reads
the judgments on cases the
decision of which has been re-
served ; another function for the
performance of which there
ought to be a good reader attached to the court. Sometimes
the [president has no voice, sometimes he is troubled with some
defect of pronunciation, sometimes he cannot read the writing of
the judge who drew up the judgment, or perhaps his own. The
counsel concerned, who have come to hear the result, lean over the
bar with their ears outstretched and bodies hoisted, throwing dis-
turbed glances at each other. The president mumbles through his
reading, or interrupts it to ask some explanation of his neighbour.
And when it is finished, bets are opened as to the result of the
litigation. Towards a quarter to one, or at one, pleading begins,
unless the Procureur's representative comes forward to make a
neat and concise statement regarding a suit taken at the previous
sitting 1 .
From a sketch by P. Renouard.
The time spent in court is a time of repose, at any rate for
judges to whom sleep comes at pleasure. But how hard it is to
acquire the art of sleeping gracefully on the bench ! To slumber
undisguisedly, with half open mouth, thick breathing, nodding
72 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
head, is unworthy of a magistrate even in our levelling age. The
point is to find proper attitudes to sleep in while assuming the
appearance of being melancholy, or buried in thought, or wrapt in
attention. The forehead supported by the hand is a good posture ;
it denotes the lofty soul of a thinker. The head between the two
hands with the eyes fixed is not bad either ; the speaker is at
liberty to believe that he has hypnotised his subject. But to sleep
with the eyes open demands a certain amount of practice. One
plan which may be strongly recommended is to rest the neck
firmly against the the chair-back and to wear spectacles ; this is
simple, natural, and makes it impossible for any one to tell whether
you are asleep or awake. There is one possible danger that the
sleeper's body may slide over the edge of his chair, and the judge
disappear under the table, which would not be regular ; but
fortunately the leather chairs are the reverse of slippery, and
hitherto accidents have been rare. Certain meditative attitudes
also deserve recommendation, as, for instance, the chin resting on
the hand ; but in this case please sit well in the centre of the chair,
with your back supported throughout its whole length by the
cushion. There is yet the plan of sleeping openly, with the arms
crossed behind the head ; this excess of cynicism disconcerts the
spectator, who cannot believe that you would sleep for so long ; in
this case, remember to preserve your posture in case you wake ;
this is an essential point. In short, any attitude will do, provided
that it is steady, and that sleep does not produce an unseemly
movement of the body. There is always at least one judge who
listens, the president. Sometimes the three relieve one another by
turns. And the modes of listening are as various as those of
One president stolidly takes notes without even raising his
eyes, as if he were doing dictation ; another watches counsel's lips
with unfaltering attention, and makes such desperate efforts to
follow the speaker that his face turns purple, and his veins swell to
bursting ; another with restless eye explores every corner of the
hall, and catches here and there in an absent manner some shred
of an argument ; another smiles benignantly at the speaker without
listening to a word of his speech ; another seems to follow with
interest and makes signs of assent, though he hears nothing, but
merely wags his head from habit. Another is impressed by the
least word, turns sharply round to his neighbour on the right to
IN COURT 73
give him the benefit of his remarks, flings himself back to his
neighbour on the left, discusses the case in a loud voice while the
arguments are still going on, scribbles down ten contradictory
judgments on the same matter, asks the counsel for explanations,
shakes himself, bounces about, jerks round on his chair as if it were
a gridiron, and leaves the court without having any opinion at all.
Another sits shrivelled up on his seat, listens immovably to the
opening of a case, forms his opinion'quite unaided before even the
opening is finished, and calmly writes out his judgment while the
defendant's counsel is still pleading ; another lazily struggles
against sleep, till some rule of law strikes him, when he starts like
a wild animal struck by a shot, and sets to work conscientiously.
Another writes letters or signs papers, looking all the time as
if he were drawing up his judgment. Another keeps interrupting
a barrister from the first word he utters, so as to put a little
liveliness into the case, and transforms counsel's argument into a
comic dialogue ; another interrupts to an equal degree, but
feverishly, wanting to know everything at once, and not giving
the unhappy counsel time to make their explanations in full.
This judge is a tartar. From the moment he grasps the plaintiff's
case, he is unable to rest till the defendant has said yes or no to
the question raised. Counsel also are liable to lose their temper,
and have peculiarities which are not always a source of amuse-
ment to the bench. Taking everything into account, the judge is
When the judge wants to talk to his neighbour, a susceptible
counsel stops short, and the judge blushes, unless he follows the
example of a certain president, who every time counsel came to
an abrupt pause in order to reduce him to silence, used to
mutter " The case is finished." He then trotted out of court with
his colleagues, or delivered an oral judgment on the spot. When
a judge interrupts too often, the advocate heaps up fine phrases
about the liberty of defence, or leaves the bar with a majestic air,
to the great annoyance of the judge, who has no wish to make
enemies. Judges who are light sleepers meet with some terrible
counsel who roar like men stone deaf, stamp on the floor, and
thump the table till the windows rattle. In ancient Greece,
advocates who stamped were punished with a fine. Quite right
too ! In those days they knew how to protect judges ! To listen to
harsh voices arguing for four or five hours at a stretch ; to watch
74 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
ugly faces grimacing, hands shaking and bodies undergoing every
kind of contortion such a mode of spending time is not always
THE ADVOCATE'S COMPLETE GUIDE
Judges must regret the time when the speeches of counsel
were confined within certain limits of duration, and when the
advocate before the old Parliament was a worthy representative
of the type sketched by Dubreuil :
I. An advocate should be of stately deportment and well-
proportioned figure, so as to make a good impression on the eyes of
judges and spectators.
II. His countenance should be open, frank, courteous, and well-
bred, and should afford at the outset a testimonial in his favour.
III. In his bearing he should shoiv no trace of presumptuous
assurance ; on the contrary, he should win the favoiir and interest of
those whom he addresses by an air of modesty and reserve.
IV. There should be nothing fierce or reckless in the expression
of his eyes.
V. His attitude before the bench should be seemly and respectful ;
and his dress should exhibit neither foppery nor negligence.
VI. In speaking he should refrain from distorting his features
by any twisting of the mouth or lips.
VII. He should avoid bursting out in a loud strident voice.
VIII. He should know hoiv to regulate his intonations so as to
keep them at an equal distance from the gruff and the shrill; his
voice should be full, clear, and preserve the character of a perfectly
IX. In declamation he should be careful to retain an exact
X. He must see that he neither raises nor lowers his tone too mucli.
XL He must be careful to keep his style in harmony with the
subject he is treating of, and he must avoid the absurdity of putting
rhetorical emphasis on insignificant matters.
XII. He must be on his guard against moving his head or his
feet too much.
XIII. Lastly, his action should be harmonious and appropriate to
his discourse, nor should it be spoilt by exaggerated or feeble
If those who speak in court had to unite all these qualities,
there would not be many advocates in Paris or anywhere else.
A charming woman who visited the Law Courts said that she
had never seen so many deformed bodies or bandy legs before ;
and she declared that the Salle des Pas-Perdus, to judge from
the robe-clad figures to be seen there, reminded her of the Cour des
Miracles. A few years ago there was actually a barrister who was
such a dwarf that a presiding judge seeing him address the court
called to him in perfect good faith : " Rise, sir ; it is not usual to
speak seated." Some barristers argue with their hands in their
pockets ; others walk up and down in the empty space before the
bar ; others in the course of their speech, moving up little by little,
lean over the judge's table and drop into conversation ; others
make pathetic appeals to the ceiling till the loose sleeves of their
gown fall back from their upturned arms ; some shed tears and
beat their breast till it sounds again. Others
scatter their papers in all directions, and send
the ushers running on all fours after the flying
leaves. Some bellow till they
are black in the face. Others
hum and haw painfully, and, in
an anxious voice, spin out inter-
minably observations that ought
not to occupy more than five
minutes. Some have a way of
repeating fifty times, . " This is
my last word." Others identify
themselves with their clients,
crying out : " No, gentlemen, we
have not deceived our husband ;
we are an honest woman." Some
stammer ; others lisp ; others scream. Some have always one brief
formula on their lips : " My opponent's reasoning is absurd." Some
are as rapid as postboys in their speech ; others are short-winded.
Some stop to spit, perhaps decorously in their pocket-handker-
chiefs, perhaps with noise and to a distance, it may be on the floor
or on their shoes, after a sniffling and drawing up their collars.
None of these would have found favour with Dubreuil.
Another thing also which would not have pleased him, and
which is of frequent occurrence, is the scene which takes place as
to the production of documents.
HEADS OF ADVOCATES.
From a sketch by P. Renouard.
76 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
An advocate is bound to show to his opponent all documents
he intends to make use of. There is hardly a case in which one
of the counsel engaged does not vociferate like a peacock because
some document is read by the other side which has not been
communicated to him ; he appeals to the court, and enlarges on
the duties of the profession. The judges listen sardonically, for
the same scene is certain to be acted over again in five minutes
on the opposite side, as soon as the objector's turn comes to
speak. And the two advocates say many bitter and personal
things to each other, though as a matter of fact they are the
best friends in the world, and on leaving court will call one
another by their Christian names ; but as a general rule there is
only one of them who laughs.
As the counsel follow one after another, from one o'clock to
four with a half-hour's interval for rest loungers look into the
court for a time and pass out again. Solicitors' clerks come and
hand in papers to the registrar, who grunts in acknowledgment ;
barristers look at the placets that lie on the bar close to the
registrar before mentioned, whom it is dangerous to trouble ;
others exert themselves to carry on a brief parley with the
government official at the other end while they are putting the
papers in order again on the bar. They have to apply to him for
briefs to attend l and to glean from the placets whether the case
in which they are engaged is likely to come on soon. The placets
are rectangular strips of paper, setting forth the matters at issue
between the parties, and to these the advocates sign their names.
There are several bundles of placets, one relating to cases which
follow the ordinary course, another to motions, another to demur-
rers, another to cases specially set down for immediate hearing.
One should bs suspicious of the latter : if a counsel in one
of these cases is not present in court, the president reprimands
the solicitors, and threatens to decide the case on the pleadings.
For some years past an order for immediate hearing has meant
little ; orders of this kind being so numerous. In certain chambers
of the civil court of first instance, the titles of cases which have
reached this stage are posted up on a green notice board outside
the door. There is a special cause list for each day in the week,
and cases not disposed of are adjourned from week to week.
But it should be added that with all this abundance of precau-
tions, it is impossible to say when a case will really come on ; and
1 Les dossiers d' assistance.
IN COURT 79
it usually happens that advocates have to take the cases to which
they attach the most importance on the days when they least
A case is fixed for a particular day. But it is preceded by
another which was begun the week before, and which is bound to
last another hour. One must be patient. When a barrister talks
of an hour that means two or three. Towards half-past two, when
the sitting is suspended, the part-heard case is not yet finished, and
the interval often exceeds the regulation half-hour.
This over-long pause in the middle of a too short sitting is un-
necessary and annoying. It is true that the judges spend it in
deliberation, and not, as malicious persons declare, in playing cards
or sipping coffee. But they could easily deliberate after court was
over ; this would be so much gained for the cause of justice and
the convenience of the bar. Counsel spends the time till half-past
three in impatiently walking up and down the half-empty court ;
the judges then return, and the president tells him that his case
will not be taken till that day week. The whole day is lost !
The scene described above as taking place in one court is being
acted in all. The character of the causes and the aspect of the
audience alone differ. There are cases which are assigned in-
discriminately to all courts ; and in the same way there is a well-
known public which appears everywhere, and which goes from
court to court, according as it finds the doors open or shut. This
consists of people who come to hear anything that happens to be
going on and want to look in everywhere ; and of the ragged
crew who go to the trials to sleep, in winter because they find it
warmer there than outside, and in summer because they find it
cooler. But there are certain courts in which chance visitors like
to linger and settle down more than in others, owing to the
nature of the cases which are tried or the reputation of the
barristers to be heard there. The roving idlers also have their
preferences, which are determined not only by the convenience of
the place, but also by the nature of the proceedings.
We will begin with the First Chamber.
80 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
THE FIRST CHAMBER
This is the largest and handsomest of all. The arrangements
are like those of the typical law court described above, but its
decoration is exceptionally rich. The windows are lofty, set in
rectangular stone frames, and surmounted, inside, by carved
mouldings picked out with gold ; they open out on a square
court-yard, that of the Conciergerie, and are flanked by other
lofty windows, where people, waiting for cases referred to the
judge in chambers, may be seen moving to and fro ; while, down
below, there is a view of iron gratings, vaulted arches, and a
gaoler's lodge embowered in creepers. The ceiling is gilt and the
panelling of the walls blue, with designs in gold ; round the
Chamber runs a frieze in the same colouring, with allegorical
figures in high relief. There are medallions of children above
the doors. The part railed off from the public is spacious, the
dai's and its adjuncts sumptuously appointed in keeping with the
chamber, with side benches for the judges' friends. Loungers have a
special fondness for the place, partly because it is the First Chamber,
partly because of its architectural pretensions ; and they stroll up
and down at their pleasure, or rest with their elbows on the iron
backs fixed in the last row of benches. Elderly idlers prefer this
Chamber as a sleeping place to any other, partly because the seats
are more comfortable, partly because it is more airy, partly because
the very majesty of the place tends to make people walk lightly
and speak in subdued tones. Certain old stagers use it as a
regular reading room. They may be seen to the number of five
or six, very respectable in appearance, with rather seedy clothes
and ill-brushed hair ; they come early with a book wrapped round
with a newspaper, and sleep stolidly, their nose between the pages.
What suits them best is some administrative difficulty, the great
question of cognisance, 1 which, attracting no hearers, and exciting
no interest, even in the counsel engaged, is discussed in subdued
tones and at prodigious length. They are fond also of cases of
a rather heavy kind, for which it is usual to bring out of their
retirement certain senior members of the profession who are rarely
to be heard ; other interests having withdrawn them from the bar.
IN COURT 8 1
With happy air, their eyes shut and their ears fast closed, these
visitors attend to witness the last flickerings of expiring genius.
They have a weakness for cases which go by default ; and they
like to listen to suits in forma pauperis, and the scarcely audible
remarks of some young probationer. They love judges who never
interrupt, and government counsel who dislike speech-making.
The diversion provided by typical Parisian cases rarely gives
them satisfaction ; many of them curse the practice of bringing to
the First Chamber of the tribunal, and before their turn, cases
which concern well-known writers, members of the dramatic
profession, or people whose doings are chronicled in the press,
A case of this sort attracts a crowd of ladies, usually good-looking,,
but who fidget and chatter, take up all the room, spread their
skirts over the knees of the regular comers, or contemptuously
push them aside with sharp little thrusts, so that a quiet nap
becomes impossible. There comes a posse of noisy probationers,
the other courts send their own regular contingents, and passers-by
flock in ; our friends no longer feel at home. It is true that
occasions like these are field days for popular counsel, regular
professors of eloquence, who speak in harmonious phrases ; men
who sparkle with jest, tell broad stories, or utter blunt home
truths ; but the regular frequenter of the First Chamber only likes
eloquence, irony, or invective in small doses ; these things prevent
him from going to sleep over his book.
When a great financial case comes on they are quite swamped
by the inrush of persons interested. In ordinary actions the client
is rarely present in court to hear his counsel speak, to encourage
him with approving gestures, or to suggest, by quick signs, some
crushing reply, during the opponent's address. Suppose, however,,
that an action has been brought against the directors of a company
(cases of this kind, when the company is not commercial, come
before the civil court) ; then the shareholders pour into court in
crowds, they get possession of all the good places, they relate their
woes to uninterested neighbours, and they show indignation or fall
a-laughing when counsel for one of the wretched promoters asks
pity for his client, a poor victim, who has only acted out of love for
his country and the public good. On those days it is impossible to-
enjoy a quiet sleep !
How many eminent advocates have conducted famous cases in
this First Chamber! The faithful sleeper has no recollection of
82 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
them. Sometimes, when he has some difficulty in getting to sleep,
or when a counsel speaks with special force, he asks some member
of the bar, "Who is that speaking there ?" And in a week's time
he has forgotten all about him.
It is among the counsel that one meets the old gentleman with
an inexhaustible store of anecdotes, who has seen everything, heard
everything, and never misses being present at a great case one
wonders when his own cases come off. He knew Berryer, Marie,
Paillet, the great Liouville, Chaix d'Est-Ange, Dufaure ; he knew
Grevy when batontiier, and he saw our present political leaders
make their debut at the Palace; he has by heart the whole collection
of Leon Duval's witticisms ; he repeats good sayings of Nicolet ;
his picture gallery of the .illustrious dead includes the stately form
of Allou and the delicate and subtle features of Durier ; he recalls
the powerful argument of Lente on the will of Ben-Ai'ad ; and
he draws portraits of all the celebrated litigants who have
appeared in the First Chamber. He waxes most amusing over
that of Sardou, who stuck close to his advocate, Maitre Clery,
throughout the Fiammina case; he grows tender over the Duchessc
de Chaulnes, who looked so bewitching, during the midday interval,
when standing up, with her back turned to the bar, looking down
on the barristers seated on their benches, she chatted with her
counsel, and gazed absently on the crowd. Lastly, \\henever a case
of any importance comes before the First Chamber, not only the
whole band of students but the whole clan of dilettante advocates
become wild with excitement ; they crowd the space reserved for
the bar, and climb up on to the judge's da'fs. The latter are mostly
juniors of from thirty to forty, whom solicitors never trouble, but
who from pure love of their profession delude themselves into the
notion of doing business by watching others do it. Those of them
who do not drop out of the chase after briefs will in ten years time
be able to play the part of an old stager of the profession.
THE SECOND CHAMBER
In the Second Chamber there are no gala-days. Neither clients,
nor loungers, nor fashionable beauties, nor old stagers, nor make-
believes ever appear there ; it has never been able to muster a body
of regular frequenters ; and even the poorest avoid it. It has a
gloomy look. Yet there is nothing remarkable in its furniture.
The picture of the crucifixion it contains is no worse than that in
other Chambers. There is the
usual government functionary hid-
den between the windows ; and
these windows open out, like those
of the First Chamber, on to the
quadrangle of the Conciergerie.
Nor are its judges specially
chosen because of their ugliness.
Whence comes the sadness which
prevails ? a dulness so profound,
that a lounger who chances to
look into this solitude is frightened
by the sound of his own footsteps,
and lets the door fall to again
with a bang. Whence, we repeat,
comes this air of sadness ?
It is because, in this Chamber,
are settled cases connected with the stamp duties, suits for
separate maintenance, and actions relating to the public taxes.
THE THIRD CHAMBER
The Third Chamber decides all cases connected with patents,
infringements of trade-marks, and literary disputes which are not
important enough for the First Chamber.
It has an audience of many types. Often the clients are
present along with their family, their friends, and the representa-
tives of the industry interested in the annulling of the patent or
the throwing open to the public of the trade-mark claimed.
The speeches, instead of turning on sentimental commonplaces
or articles of the civil code, deal with technical matters, with
machines and processes ; and their novelty has an occasional
attraction for chance hearers who having looked in for a minute,
end by staying there. They do not venture to sit down, but crowd
together under the bust of the Republic.
The general public is amused by the necessary display of little
models of machines, sometimes full-sized machines heavy
84 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
machines for making- cigarettes, enormous bellows for forges,
looms, telephonic installations are sometimes exhibited, and by
the rows of trade samples, blacking-bottles, pots of preserves,
bottles of different liqueurs, &c., which line the table of the court,
and form a kind of frame for the judges' faces.
Sometimes the bench is blocked in with a collection of statues,
by which the judges' heads are almost concealed. On some days
are to be seen toys, mechanical fish with movable tails, jumping
frogs, gymnastic figures that do tricks on the trapeze ; and while
the president smiles on the counsel engaged, the other judges wind
up the springs, the animals dance, and the puppets go through their
performances. Sometimes the speeches are accompanied by tunes
from musical boxes ; there are occasions even when people give an
air on the trombone. Or the judicial table is transformed into a
dressmakers show-room; the furniture being covered with false
busts, corsets, and crinolines. Or even there may be a lavish
display of fans and perfumes, which gives the court the air of a
The counsel also help to charm and retain the spectators.
Here practise the two great authorities on fraudulent imitation,
both of them specialists in matters connected with manufacture
The first, majestic and statuesque, speaks with all the weight of
his powerful form. At one time pouring the whitewashing flood
of his eloquence on the heads of wrongdoers, whom his words
comfort and reassure ; at another time annihilating poor
wretches with his contempt, and drowning their arguments
under a stream of words that flows on like the waves of the
The other is quick, nervous, and seductive. He begins on
the sly by carefully explaining some most complicated piece of
mechanism with a subdued grace of style. This done, he gives
way to his natural fervour, and with vigorous gesticulation makes
the persons and objects before the court glow with life. He dis-
cusses the evidence with a freedom, which, however, never oversteps
the plan he has marked out for himself, and with a wealth of fancy
which veils the hardness of the outline. As he disentangles the
point at issue he grows excited, strikes at the other side, un-
nerves his opponent, and marches straight to the conquest of the
judge. Finally, with the nimbleness of a Parisian street boy, his
IN COURT 85
glasses fixed on the tip of his nose, his hair floating behind him, a
satirical but kindly expression on his shaven upper lip, and an
aggressive short gray beard showing from beneath his chin, he
sounds the assault in strident tones, and sums up in a triumphant
flourish, with a dazzling rush of speech rich in many a picturesque
expression and luminous flash of thought.
When one of these two is speaking the other is not less amus-
ing to watch. The calmer of the pair grows frantic beneath the
storm of words that descends upon him. At each period he leaps
up in a new fit of indignation, utters cries of protest, or raises his
eyes and shoulders towards the white and gold ceiling and draws a
long breath. The more nervous calms down during his opponent's
address, restrains himself from making abrupt movements, adjusts
his glasses, makes notes in minute handwriting on slips of paper,
and smiles with close-set lips.
Besides these two regular opponents, there are several other
specialists who deserve mention. One, unpretending, spruce, and
bald-headed, is interesting because of the simplicity of his style
and the clearness of his explanations. Another, a taller man, with
high shoulders, a smiling but rather bitter mouth, an elegant though
formal way of speaking, looks like a Roman of the decadence or a
diplomatist from the Vatican. A visitor will hear many others,
but not exactly specialists, and for that very reason envied by the
specialists proper ; because the latter are invariably looked upon as
skilled only in one department, though their greatest pleasure is to
emerge from it and show that they have enough general talent for
any branch of practice.
THE FOURTH CHAMBER
The specialist's of the Fourth Chamber are the counsel of the
omnibus companies, the cab proprietors, and the accident insur-
ance companies. Many divorce cases are also tried there, but the
advocate employed in such cases is not a specialist properly so
called. Parties suing for a divorce find their counsel among
retired magistrates and past batonniers. Respondents choose
theirs from the ranks of the criminal bar and professed humourists.
If a cabman has run over some luckless foot passenger you have
a chance of hearing a barrister, still young youth lasts long at
86 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
the law courts just beginning to grow stout, always stroking a
pair of soft gray whiskers, possessed of charming manners, and
cheeks on which beads of moisture readily appear, or an old
orentleman, with whiskers also, though they are white; and with
THE "PONT" OF THE FOURTH CHAMBER.
smooth yellow hair that sets off a florid complexion ; who, with
eyes looking very fierce behind their glasses, will express himself
in severe terms respecting people who are mean enough to get
themselves run over by cabs.
IN COURT 8j
If the defendant is an omnibus driver, his counsel is pretty
certain to be a charming man with a brown moustache, who will
talk nicely for ten minutes in perfect good temper, rolling his r's
with a strong Touraine accent. On certain occasions, however,
you will hear a professed humourist, largely employed in divorce
cases and a performer much in vogue ; he is now rather sobered
down, but is still recognisable by his bushy eyebrows, his clear
metallic voice, and his fascinating blue eyes. If the accident has
taken place in a house in process of construction, it will be the turn
of a learned gentleman whose speciality has won him the name of
" the building machine," and while he is speaking you will see his
eyes swell with tears and hear the stifled sobs in his throat. For
other accidents the counsel most in request is a stout, jovial-look-
ing fellow, whose gown looks a tight fit, always busy and always
running about ; he has countless briefs to read, and speaks in a
The Fourth Chamber has a crowd of regular frequenters, even
worse dressed than those of the first ; they are, however, far
more attentive. They seem to have chosen the place not for
its convenience for the space is confined, the only place to sleep
on is a wooden bench fixed to the wall, and a very unpleasant smell
arises from the wretched creatures who occupy it but for the kind
of cases to be heard there, for its reputation as the divorce
Spicy cases are, however, becoming rarer and rarer ; the most
sensational divorces are decided upon statements previously laid
before the president, and the public only hear a few short and
veiled allusions ; but the reputation of the court has survived, and
people flock to it in crowds. Visitors who are taken over the law
courts by a relation or friend always begin by asking for the
divorce court ; and they are quite disappointed, on their arrival, to
hear a trial about a labourer who has had his hand caught in some
machinery, or a gentleman who has been thrown from his horse,
nothing, in fact, in the slightest way suggestive. The only charm
of the court lies in the gray-blue landscape, gray or blue predomi-
nating at different times, which can be seen from its windows,
stretching from the Quai aux Fleurs to the roof of the Hotel de
Ville with its sculptured figures of men-at-arms.
The three last Chambers that we have inspected are on the
same bridge-shaped landing which is reached by a double staircase
SS THE PARIS LAW COURTS
leading from the Salle des Pas-Perdus. The stair-head is full of
life. It has two benches for those who have to wait. One of them,
which is close to the Fourth Chamber, is often honoured by some
fair party to a divorce suit, sitting close by her counsel's side ; the
other is usually occupied by garrulous advocates waiting their turn
in the Second Chamber. Others lean their elbows on the parapets
of the bridge leading to the Third Chamber, their briefs fully dis-
played ; behind them clerks pass hurriedly, and down below they
can see, in the hall leading to the Sixth Chamber and the presi-
dent's private room, other members of the bar pacing to and fro ;
while on Wednesday this hall is thronged with male and female
applicants for divorce, wrathful husbands still burning to chastise
their wives, and fainting women whom Dr. Floquet delicately
unlaces, and whose charms are disclosed to eyes looking down-
From the landing one can go down the stairs leading to the
Salle des Pas-Perdus ; on wet days clouds of mist float about ; in the
summer the air is thick with dust ; and, ever and again, the little
black groups collect on the white pavement, break up into parallel
lines, which march up and down in military fashion, till they re-form
and dissolve again in a confused murmur beneath the interlacing
rays of light that fall from the diamond-paned windows.
FIFTH, SIXTH, AND SEVENTH CHAMBERS
By taking the staircase on the left, the visitor will arrive in the
.Salle des Pas-Perdus at the threshold of the Fifth Chamber, which is
placed exactly beneath the Fourth. The counsel here are of every
type, the public is miscellaneous ; there is no distinctive mark.
Stay a moment : nowhere is the picture of the crucifixion so
Under the arch at the back of the hall is concealed the entrance
to the Sixth Chamber. This again is a court with nothing to dis-
tinguish it, where cases that present no special feature are disposed
of indiscriminately. It has a fine view over the Seine and the
outlet of a sewer ; beyond and above lies the Place du Chatelet,
pleasant in the summer time from its verdure, out of which rises
a gilded statue of Victory. In winter, the view is calculated to
draw unfortunate suitors to the river.
Lastly, the Seventh Chamber lies in an angle of the Salle des
Pas-Perdus, by the side of the first. This is the domain of the
junior bar, their field of exercise, a narrow little place, badly lighted,
where trumpery cases are dispatched in the most summary manner.
It looks like the court of a justice of peace ; there are three judges
and no public. No one goes there save the counsel engaged,
who quickly run through their little statement, listen absently to
their opponent, mark their brief and depart. When the president
is a man of business and not over technical, the proceedings
resemble a familiar conversation rather than a regular argument.
But there are certain counsel of such ardour and conscientiousness
that neither years nor presidents have any effect on them.
Court of the Sainte-Chapelle.
ADJUNCTS TO THE CIVIL COURT
AN important case is about to be heard. You have obtained
admission to the court, have settled yourself in a front place, and
are waiting to be thrilled by the eloquence of some leading counsel.
Have you, at this moment, ever felt any curiosity as to the pre-
liminary trial undergone by the mass of legal documents that swell
his brief ? I fear not.
De minimis non curat praetor,
And, like the praetor of old, you do not trouble your head about
All the same, these trifles have their interest. For there is not
a single bit of stamped paper in the brief which has not given rise
to journeys without number in what may be called the ante-
chambers of the Palace of Justice.
In order to learn something about these preliminary stages, let
us follow this sharp-looking little fellow of fourteen or fifteen who,
with a bag on his arm, has just arrived at the courts at about
eleven o'clock, in company with a crowd of little fellows as brisk
This is the junior clerk, nicknamed, from time immemorial, the
saute-riiisseau. He lunched in the office, before the other clerks, in
a rough-and-ready fashion, off stewed mutton and potatoes, with a
pennyworth of cheese, bought at the cook-shop over the way,
bread and wine being kindly furnished gratis by his employer. He
then sets out for the courts, with a song on his lips and gaiety in
All junior clerks, however, are not young. Some of them, who
have done nothing but run up and down the courts for twenty-five
ADJUNCTS TO THE CIVIL COURT 9!
years, may be seen with hair and whiskers turning white. For
these the " holy places " of the Temple of Themis have no
mystery ; they know its most secret windings, its most hidden
corners. If pressed, they could tell you from what part of the
building comes any grain of dust which chances to fall upon their
hats. Sometimes, in fact, a glorious veteran, his breast glittering
with stars, maybe seen fulfilling this duty in spite of an amputated
arm. Sometimes the real junior clerk is replaced by an amateur,
dressed up to the eyes ; and thus, in that part of the law courts
where junior clerks reign supreme, one may notice many different
types in the jostling crowd.
But let us follow our junior clerk. Here he is in the Salle des
Pas-Perdus. His first step is to go and deposit in the hands of
the clerk at the office of the First Chamber a petition for
leave to issue a writ at once, 1 asking the judge to relieve the
plaintiff from the obligation of going before a justice of peace
for an attempt at conciliation, and to give him leave to summon
the defendant to appear at the end of three days' notice. At four
o'clock, this petition, answered or not by the judge as the case may
be, will be returned to him along with the papers on the case from
his office, through the Chamber of Solicitors practising before the
He then ascends the little double staircase leading from the
Salle des Pas-Perdus to the Second and Fourth Chambers, crosses
the landing, turns to the left, mounts another flight of steps and
deposits all his papers, writ of summons, pleadings, notice of trial,*
service of judgment on the solicitor, &c., at the ushers' office, 4 on
the first floor. These documents will be returned to him in two
days' time, duly registered and served, at office No. 17, which is
situated on the second floor. To this the junior clerk is now
making his way.
At office No. i he takes away the ticket assigning an action
and copies of judgments. 5 On reaching office No. 2 he perceives
two women dressed in mourning, seated in a corner. They arc
waiting for him to sign, perhaps a formal acceptance, perhaps a
formal renunciation of some deceased's succession, or of the
community of goods between husband and wife. At office No. 3
1 Requite a bref delai. - Chambre des avoues.
3 Avenir a f audience. * Bureau des huissiers.
5 II retire le bulletin de distribution ct les expeditions dejugements.
" Soil une acceptation, soit une renondation a succession ou a communaute.
92 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
he lodges a writ of execution ; at No. 4 he looks in to ascertain
whether a will has been deposited. Going on, he receives from the
official at No. 5, sheltered, like all his colleagues, behind a grating,
a certificate that no opposition has been entered. 1
He passes by Nos. 8 and 9, which deal with the formal inquiries
held before the civil chambers, and by No. pA, where papers re-
lating to civil rights are examined. Then he enters No. 10, where
the archives are kept, and sits down for a minute. There are
arranged, chamber by chamber, the judgments delivered in the
seven civil chambers during the last ten years. Those of the years
before this date are kept in the reserve, in an immense hall annexed
to the Record Office, and extending right above the Salle des Pas-
After having inspected the judgment he requires our clerk lodges
at office No. 1 1 the minutes from which the judgment will be
drawn up. 2 Proofs of debt, in the distribution of the proceeds of
real and personal estate sold under execution, 3 are lodged at office
No. 13 ; lastly, at No. 16 are deposited the records of all the cases
tried in the law courts, so that they may be put on the general
list and be distributed among the different chambers of the courts.
Such then are the principal rounds which every junior office
clerk has to make every day ; such the process which all legal
documents must go through before they are finally inserted in
PROCEEDINGS IN JUDGES' CHAMBERS
Half-past twelve has just struck from the clock placed in the
Salle des Pas-Perdus, above the old first chamber of the civil
court, which is nowadays a room where applications not made in
open court are heard.
The junior clerk has come down stairs to wait for the opening
of certain departments. He meets a fellow-clerk from his own
office, better skilled than himself in the mysteries of legal
procedure, a student or a future solicitor, who has already
acquired the look of an official of the Public Ministry. This
1 Certificat de non-opposition.
2 La minute des qualites sur lesquelles sifera F expedition dujugement rendn.
3 Productions a ordre, et productions a contribution
ADJUNCTS TO THE CIVIL COURT
clerk, a managing clerk or second clerk, has two applications
in chambers to support, one on a report, the other on an originating
Suddenly the door of the room where the cases are heard is
thrown open. A crowd of petty tradesmen, wine-sellers, grocers,
fruiterers, dressmakers, &c., push their way in at the same time as
the general agents and the clerks sent to support applications. In
the corners are little groups busy talking ; some look resigned,,
others gesticulate furiously. A few more patient people stand at
the window, and gaze stolidly at the
gray paved court and postern gate of
the Conciergerie. Poor tenants, whose
ejectment is demanded, consult a shady-
looking general agent about the serious-
ness of their case, timidly slipping three
francs into his hand.
The judge appears, accompanied by
his registrar ; quiet is restored, and the
applicants begin to file past him one by
First sitting. Applications on reports,
claims for the ejectment of backward
tenants, requests for time on the part
of the latter, applications to discontinue
actions 2 for removal of seals, 3 &c., cross
and recross one another. In three-quarters of an hour, with a
whispering that recalls a sick-room for here no one speaks up,
the parties or their representatives state their case in an undertone
more than forty applications are disposed of.
A rather long interval follows. Some fresh interested parties
come on the scene ; the lawyers have gone off on other business.
The managing clerk, to whom we were conducted by our first little
friend, has lost his first application. The judge has given time to
the tenant whose immediate expulsion he demanded. Being con-
scientious as times go, the clerk sits down on an unoccupied bench
in the Salle des Pas-Perdus, and works away at his second batch of
1 Un refere sur proces-verbal, et tin reffri sur placet.
- Discontinuation de poursuites.
3 Le'cei de see lies.
IN JUDGES CHAMBERS.
From a sketch by P. Renouard.
94 THE PARIS LAW COURTS & ' '*',/ '
T\vo o'clock strikes, and the doors are again thrown open. '-A-
fresh judge appears ; sometimes it is the president of the court,
attended of course by the registrar.
The second sitting now begins. Applications on originating
summonses for official inspections, for replevin, 1 for reduction of
the amount of distress, 2 for appointment of receivers, 3 &c.
Many solicitors in their gowns are in attendance to support the
interest of their clients.
And now it is our clerk's turn ; he argues, explains, replies, and,
if it is his first appearance, awaits, with beating heart, the decision
of the judge. Let us say that he wins. One lost, one gained.
This sounds well in a story, and will satisfy the equitable instincts
of our reader.
Nearly all our modern orators have commenced their career by
mumbling applications in chambers. Presidents have sometimes
been so much struck by the intelligent air of the clerk> who in his
nervousness was passing by the decisive argument, that they have
encouraged him and gradually brought him back to the right path.
An ex-batonnier perhaps remembers that during his early years of
clerkship, he had to make an application in chambers before
President de Belleyme. Though he had a good case, his whole
face showed terror at the thought of losing it, and he went on a
completely wrong track in his statement.
"Ah!" said M. de Belleyme, "you want to win your applica-
tion ? Why then do you not lay stress upon the arguments in your
favour ? "
" Because, Mr. President "
" Come now, another time, when you have an application
like this to make, I will tell you what you should say."
And to the astonishment of the future advocate, M. de
Belleyme set forth in order all the arguments bearing on the
case then before him.
" There now, I tell you again, that is what you will say another
time, and then the president, in his turn, will tell the registrar as I
tell him to day : ' Registrar, order as asked.' "
Maitre went away very well satisfied. Thanks to the judge's
arguments, he had gained his application.
1 Mainlevee de saisie-arrft. 2 Reduction dii montant de la saisie.
3 Nomination de seqitestrcs.
ADJUNCTS TO THE CIVIL COURT
It is 2 P.M. on Wednesday. The glass-roofed hall the
atrium our architect calls it which connects the Salle des Pas-
Perdus with the Sixth Chamber of the Civil Court and the rooms
annexed to the First begin to fill with women. Some wear hats,
some bonnets, others are bare-headed ; some are smiling, others
sit down without saying a word. Some of them shed tears, but
these are very few. Then come the men, some grave, others
cheerful. The men and women are husbands and wives engaged
in suits for divorce or judicial separa-
tion, who must first appear before the
president for an attempt at reconcilia-
tion. From time to time, in the middle
of this crowd of common people, there
appears, followed by her solicitor, an
elegant young lady, dressed in black
silk with dark suede gloves. In deference
to the occasion she wears no jewellery,
excepting a pair of costly ear-rings.
These she cannot leave off even for a
minute, because they light up her whole
face. While waiting her turn, this very
modest suitor will seat herself without
shame on the corner of a bench close
to a bare-headed woman, perhaps her
dependant ; and the latter watches her
neighbour curiously, thinking, no doubt, that fortune, in this
respect, like the guard which in old days used to keep watch
at the gates of the Louvre, does not protect the rich any more
than the poor from conjugal troubles.
Each couple then passes into the private room of the judge
who is charged with the duty of trying to effect a reconciliation.
And there, performing the office of a physician of souls, the
magistrate occasionally succeeds in effecting a reconciliation. But
more often than not he fails.
After a while the hall grows empty; several months, sometimes
several years after this preliminary attendance, the couple or their
From a sketch by P. Renouard.
96 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
solicitors reappear with the witnesses, to stifle in the low-roofed
ante-chambers of the examining judges ; every one, when he has
the chance, going to breathe at one of the square windows which
enable those in the hall of the divorce court to see the figures
of people walking in the square below. As a general rule, the
witnesses and the solicitors come without their clients for this
little ceremony, which takes place, according to the law, in the
judge's plainly furnished private room. Assisted by the inevitable
registrar, and seated before a small mahogany desk, the examining
judge takes down the depositions of the witnesses brought forward
by each party to justify his or her statement of facts. The wit-
nesses or the actual parties interested grow animated and warm.
The examining judge, surfeited with experience of human failings,
wears a mask of serious impassibility. The registrar, like his
superior, scribbles away at his notes. But, when the examination
is finished and the two inquisitors are left alone, a curious observer
would see them unbutton their waistcoats so as to have a laugh
at their ease !
THE PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
The hall, where we have just seen the applicants for divorce,
leads to the private room of the president of the Court. The
best time for a visit is half-past four : the solicitors form a line
in a little corridor, in the middle of a crowd of young clerks ;
ladies, and as a rule ladies only, are seated immovably on leather
chairs, in the little waiting room, with a sort of hope that the green
velvet-covered door of the president's room will soon open ; their
sole consolation being a few words from a polite, fair-haired
gentleman, the president's secretary. Those who have the good
luck to enter will find themselves in a spacious, well-lighted room,
with President Aubepin seated at a large writing table, his features
refined, serious, and a little worn by fatigue. After being a
Deputy Procureur of note, M. Aubepin was, in 1872, appointed
president of the Court of First Instance of the Seine, which he has
ever since filled with a tact and firmness acknowledged by every one.
Around him, on the wall, are the portraits of his predecessors.
To the right of the corridor leading from the president's private
room, is a way to the postern gate of the Conciergerie. On the
ADJUNCTS TO THE CIVIL COURT 97
left is the Council Chamber, lighted, like a studio, by the tripartite
pointed window that can be seen from the Place du Chatelet,
between the two towers of the Conciergerie. At the extreme end
is a little enclosed courtyard, and in this courtyard is the base of a
tower which contains the records connected with the office of the
SUING IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Everybody finds the expenses of litigation serious ; to some
they are crushing. The heavy sums that have to be paid out
in "fees to court officials, solicitors, and counsel form an insur-
mountable obstacle to the poor. The free dispensation of justice
is an ideal which financial necessities have relegated to the king-
dom of Utopia; but, in the meantime, those who, being without
resources, have legal rights to assert, can bring them before the
courts, thanks to the poor suitors aid department!
This department, established with the view of enabling poor
people to commence an action at law, or to obtain legal defence
when sued, ends indirectly in the curious result that the very rich
and the very poor are equally relieved from any anxiety as to law
costs. Only those persons of slender means, who live in straits,
though not in poverty, and who find it very difficult to make both
ends meet, are deterred from seeking justice through fear of the
heavy expenses it entails; it is this class of people who are too
often compelled, in dread of a costly law-suit, to forego their rights
or to accept the ruinous terms imposed on them by some rich
How must people proceed in order to obtain help from the
poor suitors' aid department ? and in what way are they to
apply for it ? Few advocates or regular frequenters of the law
courts have not been called on to answer this question, put to
them in a humble voice by some poor fellow they meet wandering
about in the Salle des Pas-Perdus or its side corridors.
The applicant's first step must be to provide himself with two
indispensable documents. First, a copy of his tax-paper or a
certificate from the collector of his district to show that he is not
assuming a false position. Secondly, a declaration of poverty,
1 L? assistance judiciaire.
98 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
setting forth that he has no means, and is unable to assert his
rights at law. This declaration must show in detail the applicant's
means of livelihood ; and it must be taken to the mayor of his
parish, who at the foot of the document authenticates its execution
and appends his signature.
Furnished with these two documents, the applicant indites a
letter addressed to the Procureur, making in formal terms his
request for public aid. This letter can be written on ordinary
paper, but it must contain precise information regarding the
actual suit in respect of which the applicant prays for help.
Attached to this letter are the two documents before mentioned.
The whole is then put in an envelope and posted, or, what
is better, personally delivered at the procureur's office. This
done, nothing remains but to wait. This is just what it is
difficult to impress on the petitioner, who fidgets and wonders
what has become of his letter. What happens is this : the
procureur forwards the petition to the staff of the poor
suitors' aid department, who will examine it, determine on its
merits, and decide whether it shall be granted or refused. The
staff of this department for the Tribunal of the Seine is divided
into three sections, each section being composed of five members :
a delegate of the director of the Registration Office, an advocate,
a solicitor nominated by the solicitors' chamber, 1 and a retired
magistrate, advocate or solicitor, nominated by the Tribunal. Its
sittings are not public.
When a request for aid has been forwarded to the staff, it is
assigned to one of the three sections. The latter appoints some
one to report on the petition, and the parties to the suit in question
are then summoned by letter, and heard, not only as to the
petitioner's plea of want of means and inability to bear the expense
of going to law, but also en the subject of the case itself and the
rights in dispute. The opposite side is at liberty to call in question
the poverty of the petitioner as well as his grounds of action in
the suit. The official reporter advises the department to adopt
or reject the petition, and the department give their decision
without assigning any reason for it ; they merely state the facts
and give a brief summary of the suit in question. This decision
is final and without appeal. A petitioner, moreover, must not
forget to present himself on the date fixed by the official reporter,
1 Chambre des avoues.
ADJUNCTS TO THE CIVIL COURT
for, even though the department decide in ignorance of some
-special plea or argument which might have been put forward to
materially strengthen the petition, they cannot, on this pretext,
reverse their decision. At Paris, in case of the petitioner's non-
attendance, it is customary to send a second notice ; but, if the
petitioner fails to appear at the second summons, his application is
finally struck off the list. If the claim to public assistance is
allowed, a copy of the decision is sent, through the procureur,
to the President of the Civil Court. To this copy are added
the papers in the case. The president then writes letters to
the batonnier of the Order of Advocates, to the Chamber of
Solicitors, and to the Chamber of Ushers, who will have to
appoint an usher to serve proceedings, a solicitor to take them,
and an advocate to appear in each case without payment on the
The benefits of public aid are liable to be withdrawn while the
action is pending if the person assisted acquire new resources, or
if it is found out that he has deceived the department by a
fraudulent declaration. In the latter case, criminal proceedings
-can be taken against the person who has been guilty of deceit.
THE AUCTION ROOM
CROSSING the little courtyard of the First Chamber, we find
ourselves back again in the Salle des Pas-Perdus at its western end.
There, on the very spot where once stood the marble table, 1 two
large doors open, giving access to a spacious rectangular apartment,
down the middle of which is raised a kind of long platform, the
parts of the room near the wall being furnished with tiers of benches
arranged to form the segment of a circle. Here sales by auction
of land and houses take place. At two o'clock on Wednesdays,
Thursdays, and Saturdays, the loud ringing of a bell announces the
commencement of proceedings. The crowd rush in, the hall is
filled with the mass of people we have seen waiting at the door ;
solicitors representing clients, men, women, general agents ; tall
hats are seen mingled with workmen's caps, and the stuff gowns of
solicitors with ladies' silk dresses. All distinctions of occupation,
ambition, and class are lost in one and the same pursuit of gain,
each one, according to his resources, feeling the same intensity of
interest and the same passion, whether the property in question be
a plot of ground worth a thousand francs or an estate valued at
The seats on the tiers of benches are quickly taken, and in
every part of the room, from centre to corners, the people crowd in
till they are packed so tightly that they cannot move. The doors
1 A vast table on which mysteries are said to have been played in the Middle Ages.
THE AUCTION ROOM IOI
bang, people enter and leave ; there is a constant coming and
going, and the place is as full of bustle as a fair. The only things
wanting are the cattle, the sheep, and the little flesh-coloured
grunting pigs for sale. The judge there is only one arrives, and
takes his place at the desk in the middle of the dais. On the
extreme right, by his side, sits the registrar ; on the extreme left,
an official appointed to take charge of the lights the auction
The auction lights are an old custom. On a huge silver candle-
stick, like the chandeliers to be seen in churches, is placed a sort of
iron box, above which is an upright needle. To this needle is
fixed a diminutive taper, like a wax caterpillar, which burns for a
few seconds, and is replaced; as soon as it is out, by another, lighted
at a candle close by.
The lots put up for sale include properties held in undivided
shares as to the value of which the owners have not been able to
agree, or forming part of the estate of some deceased person in
which minors or persons under disability are interested, and which
in such a case the law directs to be sold by order of the court ;
the lots also include property sold by mortgagees ; in one word,
everything that is put up for sale by process of law and disposed
of to the last and best bidder. The persons present frequently
consult a sheet of paper, which contains the particulars of the lots
offered for competition. Every time that a new number is called
out there are movements on the benches. The solicitor goes and
sits by his client, or the latter goes clown to his solicitor, who stands
in front of the rostrum and who alone has the right to bid. Every
would-be purchaser more or less openly pesters his man of business,
to whom he has already given long instructions in the Salle des
Pas-Perdus. " Let me alone," he answers. " Don't stop me ! I
will give the other bidders no respite. Tell me your maximum
price, and I will so take their breath away that they won't dare
follow." Another preaches opposite tactics. " Keep quiet ! Pre-
tend at first that you don't want anything. Let them begin, and,
then, at the right time we will step in and win."
At the summons of the usher on duty, the solicitor having the
conduct of the sale uncovers, and asks to see that the proceedings
are in form. Then as soon as the upset price is announced the
bidding begins. Two tapers are lighted. Before the third, the
1 Les feux des enchi-res.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
officer in charge calls out in a clear voice : " Last light ! " But
higher bids keep coming in, and as three lights must burn through
on each bid, as soon as a new price is offered, the following light,
which was announced as the last, becomes the first of the three
required by law. In this way, when a large property is for sale, it
happens that the uninitiated, to their astonishment, hear the warning
of " last light " twenty times over without knowing why there are
so many last lights. There are few things so amusing as to
mingle with the public, identify one's self with some purchaser and
" LAST LIGHT ! "
follow his tricks and stratagems. All assume an air of indifference ;
they affect an uninterested tone of voice and attitudes of lofty
disdain. " Ten thousand francs ! " cries the usher. " Eleven
thousand," answers a distant voice. " Twelve thousand ! " shouts
some one at the other end of the hall. " Thirteen thousand ! "
rejoins the first bidder. " Any one fourteen . . . . ? " asks the
usher, with a glance at the opponent's solicitor ; but the latter
shakes his head. No more for him. It is too dear. His rival
carries off the prize.
Suddenly the silence is broken by the sacramental words " Last
light ! " The situation grows exciting. The reluctant solicitor
THE AUCTION ROOM 103
wakes up, urged on, spurred on when he is not forestalled in his
bidding by his client, who gasps out, " Take care, sir, or I shall
lose this ! Bid away, can't you ? " " Don't be afraid, I know what
I am about." And, calmly, the auctioneer puts down his list.
" Fifty ? " " Thirteen thousand and fifty francs, by Maitre X "
repeats the crier. His opponent retorts, and the " last lights " follow
on one another in quick succession. At last, after alternate advances
managed with more or less address, the victory is decided in favour
of one of the bidders. He is always delighted at his triumph,
although often he has made a bad bargain, carried farther than he
intended to go by the fascination of the contest, and by the in-
fatuation which is produced by the running up of the bidding,
giving it all the illusion of high play.
There are also the puffers, pretending purchasers, who fight
"fora good motive," and who often become its victims. Their
sole aim in raising the bids is that the property, in which they have
a share, may fetch a higher price. They urge on the bidders,
reckoning on a demand, the strength of which they have miscalcu-
lated, and the force of which is spent but all too soon. The property
remains on their hands. Often they have not the means of paying
for it. They will have to put it up for sale again and pay the costs
of the resale ; enormous costs which will swallow up all their share.
How often, too, purchasers deceive themselves ! How many in their
dreams had redecorated the house, made new plans, furnished the
apartments in exquisite style, given a house-warming, and then,
after all, their dreams have been scattered by the excessive prices
they have paid. Another source of disappointment is to be found
in the practice of uniting lots. There are, for instance, three
different lots in one inheritance. Each of these lots is sold separ-
ately, but with power for the vendors to unite the three into one,
after the separate biddings, to sec if a higher aggregate price can
be obtained for the whole together. The property includes a
charming little house. A pretty woman she is always pretty in
these cases comes to the auction room with beating heart. She
has paid a visit to the house ; she wants it, she must have it. Her
solicitor sends up the bidding. The little house is knocked down
to him. So great is her joy that the fair client can hardly help
embracing him. But now the whole three lots are put up as one.
The total sum realised up to now is announced ; the whole is put
up at this price, and a horrid lawyer, abominably ugly he is always
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
abominably ugly in this case offers an advance on the aggregate
sum and takes all. Farewell to the little nest ! Perrette often
comes to the auction room to have her jugs of milk broken. The
judge, who calmly declares the property knocked down to Maitre
L , seems not to have even a suspicion of these emotions
and woes that quiver around him. From time to time, on a fixed
day of the week, advocates appear amidst this throng to argue
points that arise in connection with forced sales.
THE ADVOCATES' CONFERENCE
EVERY Monday, from the beginning of November to the end ot
June, a change comes over the character of the auction room. The
judge is replaced by the b&tonnier of the Order of Advocates, who
looks quite magisterial in this position. In place of the man who
lights the auction tapers, a young probationer, conscious of his
glory, reads a paper on some point of law, which, with the consent
of the batonnier, he proposes as a subject for discussion in the
ensuing week a discussion which the orators will not fail to conduct
with their usual skill, showing once more that, when necessary,
knowledge and style can be combined together.
In the registrar's place another rising young probationer is
preparing to resume the discussion set down for the day. To the
right and left of the president, in the shade where the light
coming from over their heads leaves them, is a crowd of other pro-
bationers, forming, with the two before mentioned, the body of
secretaries to the advocates' conference. A space has been cleared
in the middle of the room. At the bar are four aspirants, who
each deliver their little speech in the hope of being admitted to the
honours of secretaryship. On the tiers of benches is a mixed crowd
of probationers. The general public are not allowed to enter. If
they did, they would hardly understand the bearing of these exer-
cises, these callow variations on well-worn themes, nor would they
realise the magic that the title of " Secretary to the Advocates'
Conference " can have for young ambition.
The advocates' conference is an institution resembling the Ecole
Polytechniquc and has on its side the prestige of a long past. It
106 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
seems that it leads to everything, and that the title alone is equiva-
lent to the pledge of a happy future. Towards it tend the dreams
of every young probationer who is regarded, in the bosom of his
family, as possessed of some rhetorical talent; and if he be son to
a gentleman of the long robe, whether judge, solicitor, or advocate,
his father impresses upon him that he will never do anything in the
world unless he gets appointed a secretary to the advocates' con-
ference. The legend has had its effect. All our great orators have
been secretaries to the conference. Allou was .third secretary in
1842 and delivered the panegyric on Ferey, at the commencement
of the legal year in 1843. Nicolet held the same office in 1844.
M. Buffet was second secretary in 1843. Ernest Picard was fifth
in 1848, the year when Maitre Cresson was second ; Maitre
Betolaud was third in 1852, \vhile M. Kaempfen, director of the
National Museums, was first and Durier fourth; in 1860, Maitre
Barboux had the number one and the Bethmont Prize ; the number
three of 1863 was .Leon Garnbetta, whilst the number one was
M. Decrais, our ambassador at Vienna, 1 and the number two was
Maitre Albert Martin.
It is at the barristers' conference that all our most famous
politicians have made their cttbut.
M.Jules Grevy was the thirteenth secretary of 1838 and the
sixth of 1839 (at this time a man could be chosen several years
running) ; M. Floquet was the sixth of 1853, M. Jules Ferry the
seventh of 1854, M. Leon Renault the second of 1861 (the first
was Maitre Pouillet, the third M. Guillot, the present examining
magistrate, the last but one M. Camescasse), M. Meline was the
second of 1864, M. Ribot the first in 1865 ; again, among the first,
are M. Jamais in 1879, M. Poincarre in 1882 ; M. Develle, equally
first in 1868, before M. Laferriere, vice-president of the Council of
State ; M. Laguerre is the ninth of 1881, M. Millerand the seventh
of 1882, M. Barthou the sixth of 1886, M. Joseph Reinach was
nominated in 1879 to replace one who had resigned.
The advocates' conference has supplied recruits, especially during
the last ten years, for the Parisian bench, and it has provided the
cream of the official representatives chosen by the Minister of
Justice. An association of former secretaries to the advocates' con-
ference was founded in 1878 in order to raise the prestige of the title
of secretary, and to renew the bonds of good fellowship among those
1 Recently appointed ambassador at London.
THE ADVOCATES' CONFERENCE 107
ex-laureates who have become scattered in different professions.
It counts on its roll two members of the French Academy, Maitre
Rousse and Count D'Haussonville, eight professors of law, one
ambassador, several prefects, many cabinet ministers, and some
men of letters ; it has even produced an iron-master. Every year,
in the month of July, the Council of the Order select, from a list
of the young men who have spoken in the course of the judicial
year, the twelve of highest merit. These will form the body of
secretaries for the ensuing year. A man can only be secretary
once. As a matter of fact, the choice is made by the bdtonnier, who
alone is present at the conferences, and the council content them-
selves with ratifying his choice ; but the bdtonnier asks the opinion
of the twelve acting secretaries and makes them draw up a list, to
which he pays more or less attention according as he is less or
more positive in his opinions.
These functions of consulting jurymen which are assigned to
the secretaries of the conference, their place on the dais by the
bdtonnier s side, and the consciousness of talent which has received
official recognition give them a mingled expression of discreet
reserve and patronising benevolence that would become a young
professor just elevated to the bench. Each annual promotion forms
a little clan, the members of which are in duty bound to live on
intimate terms with one another and to dine together once a month ;
they all have nearly the same manner, and seem to possess a slight
family resemblance. Their common mannerism is that which was
in vogue during their year of office. It is not always that of the
bdtonnier who then filled the chair, for there are some men who
cannot allow in another the little peculiarities they have themselves,
of which they are perhaps quite unconscious. In order to be-
come secretary to the conference a man must win favour with the
bdtonnier ; he must not make enemies of the outgoing secretaries ;
and, if he hopes for one of the first places, his legal essay must be
a little masterpiece. Here is the recipe. Take two or three very
simple arguments which bear on the subject set for discussion,
develop them on paper in elegant phraseology ornamented with
conceits, add a few telling and, above all, brand-new anecdotes,
learn the whole by heart, and recite it, with serious conviction,
magisterial dignity or wild volubility, according to your tempera-
ment, and the trick is done ! Such, then, is the pursuit to which
our young geniuses devote themselves every Monday !
.108 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The desired goal once attained, the proud secretary will soon
lose the illusions he cherished when a candidate ; the old ideal of
happiness will now seem vain, the annual list which once seemed a
roll of victors becomes a catalogue of failures, and the name of
Barreme, prefect of the Eure, will stand out quite brightly in this
book of martyrs ; they will learn by experience that briefs do not
necessarily come to the heroes of the Conference. And yet, those
who ought to know have told us that it is a good institution that
should be faithfully preserved. People make fun of it, look down
on it, but it has given to many the joy of a first and perhaps a last
success, and now that speaking in court is becoming more and more
practical and commonplace, the Conference remains the last refuge
of the delightful art of saying empty nothings in a graceful style.
But the Conference, in its turn, is sure to see some changes. It
has already passed through many a transmigration. In 1710,
in deference to the wish of M. de Riparfonds, the founder of the
library, it was a meeting of all the advocates in the Parliament of
Paris who had been more than ten years at the bar. The chairman
proposed for discussion some question suggested by the batonnier a
few days before, he touched on its chief difficulties, and each person
then gave his opinion in due order, beginning with the youngest.
From 1775, a young advocate, who had given some proof of ability,
used to be chosen every year to deliver a panegyric on some eminent
judge or advocate lately deceased ; on the I3th January, 1775,
Henrion de Pansey pronounced the eulogy of Mathieu Mole ; on the
I4th December, 1776, Mathieu delivered the eulogy of Guy Coquille.
Besides this, charitable conferences used to be held to advise poor
people on their legal rights. This was a kind of board for giving
free consultations. From the year 1818 the advocates' Conference
assumed its modern character of a school for probationers; ten
secretaries to the Conference were named each year, and two of them
were chosen to deliver addresses at the beginning of the legal year.
A man could be chosen for several years in succession. In 1835
the number was raised to twelve.
The Conferences used, in old days, to be held in the library
but as the number of probationers increased and the library grew
more and more inconvenient, it became necessary to find a more
comfortable apartment, and the auction room was fixed on. From
that time the sittings at the reopening of the courts have taken
place in the same room. There the batonnier delivered his
THE ADVOCATES' CONFERENCE
inaugural address, and the next two leading members of the Bar
read a panegyric on the late bAtonnier or some literary study,
usually of a juridico-historical character. But this traditional
ceremony now takes place in the new library.
On Conference Mondays a change comes over, not only the
auction room, but over the whole law courts, the Salle des Pas-
Perdus, the robing rooms, and the corridors. For, on this day, the
probationers must come and put in an appearance, and the law
PROBATIONERS SIGNING THEIR CARDS.
courts are given up to them. Dow r n to 1884 Monday was a legal
holiday, and the tradition has left its mark on the practice
followed by legal gentlemen of keeping away from the courts on
this day unless they have business there. The probationers can
then be seen in all their splendour. This year there were 942 of
them, almost as many as the barristers enrolled.
At midday one of the watchmen attached to the law courts,
places before each door of the auction room two wooden machines,
which from a distance look like mill wheels set up horizontally on
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
a pivot. If a spectator, rendered curious by these strange prepara-
tions, approaches the wheels in question, he will find that they have
openings down the side, and that the right wheel bears a little flag
marked A. H., the left wheel a little flag marked I. Z.
Next, a table covered with green cloth is brought in ; on this
table is laid an enormous blotting pad ; in front of the pad is
placed a box with two compartments; lastly, the installation is
completed by the appearance of two or three inkstands, a dozen
pen-holders and some bowls full of sawdust. At this moment,
Leon, apparitor of the Bar, of whom we have already spoken,
comes on the scene with an air of paternal solemnity.
From the large box, which now lies open, he draws a number of
small wooden cases containing square cards. Each of these cases
will be put into an opening of one of the wheels described above.
And if, in defiance of the pass-word, we can manage to get a look
at one-of the cards, we will find it is printed as follows :
... .th Section.
2 Nov. 1891
4 Jan. 1892
9 Nov. 1891
II Jan. 1892
16 Nov 1891
18 Jan. 1892
23 Nov 1891
25 Jan. 1892
30 Nov 1891
I Feb. 1892
7 Dec 1891
8 Feb. 1892
15 Feb. 1892
21 Dec 1891
22 Feb. 1892
28 Dec. 1891
29 Feb. 1892
This is a probationer's certificate ; each card is destined to
receive a signature attesting that the young barrister has come
regularly. . . as far as the door of the conference room. Leon
meanwhile fastens to the door of the auction room a slip of paper on
which is written the subject for debate and the names of the speakers.
As late as one and half-past: one the probationers continue to
arrive. Resplendent in hired gowns they take two or three turns
round the hall: some, stiff as old-fashioned magistrates; others,
THE ADVOCATES' CONFERENCE
with the cap at the back of the head, a glass in the eye and a
jaunty air. Then they turn their back on the auction-room and take
their departure. Only the minority remain behind; but these in
spite of the eccentricities developed by the academic tournament of
the Conference are always workers, and, in many cases, are on the
road to becoming leading counsel. The robing rooms are filled
with a noisy crowd ; every corner, every table is heaped up with
gowns, and every gown will in the course of the day appear on quite
a dozen backs; by their side are picturesque mountains of caps,
and, pell-mell with it all, a male or female attendant may be seen
impartially handing out gowns that are always too short or too long,
and caps which either won't stick on or else fall right over the eyes.
By the side of the robing rooms and towards the Salle des Pas-
Perdus some gay ladies may be seen. They come on Monday with
the probationer who has not yet given up Bohemian ways, and whose
study can easily be transformed into a place of assignation, all
the rooms in the Quartier Latin being furnished with alcoves. But
the student does not feel at his ease. He is afraid of the batonnier,
of the member of the council who reported on his case when he
was admitted probationer ; but, perhaps, he is most afraid of Leon.
So Mdlle. Paquerette seats herself demurely on a bench, while her
companion signs his name and takes a turn in the law courts with
TAKING PROPERTY FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES
DOWN below, at the end of a corridor lighted by gas, beyond
the office of the secretaries to the advocates' Conference, in the
middle of the rooms allotted to the police department, is the Court
of Expropriation, a low, gloomy room, blocked up in the middle by
an enormous stove.
At one end is the court table with the regular green cloth
cover. This time it is shaped like a horse-shoe, and by an unusual
arrangement the magistrate who directs the jury sits next to the
registrar, at the right point of the horse-shoe, the ten jurymen
occupying the semicircle. The jurymen are chosen by lot and have
to decide on the compensation to be given to those whose property
is taken; the judge is only there to superintend the proceeding,
to guide the jurymen, and to set them going; he is their school-
master. The representatives of the State, of the City of Paris, or
of some public department, according as the property is taken by
one administrative body or another, have brought heaps of docu-
ments, plans, and briefs. They form a regular phalanx round
the solicitor or advocate who commands them. They take up
their position on the left, an army in battle array, with compact
On the right are the battalions of those whose property is
to be taken. They are of all ages and of all conditions, and are
commanded by those special agents to whom their interests have
TAKING PROPERTY FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES 113
been entrusted. All mount with fury to the assault on the money-
box ; and terrible are the combats waged between the champion
of the public despoiler, terrible as the angel who with flaming
sword barred the gates of Paradise, and the counsel for the
owners and tenants advocates insinuating, tenacious, and strong
in the manifold resources of a persuasive exordium and a honeyed
Oh, those jurymen I Those noble, good, honest jurymen ! Both
sides flatter them, tell them stories, try to make them laugh, arouse
their pity, envelope them in the toils of subtle and caressing
eloquence. Nothing is spared which is likely to please or de-
ludethem. They are overwhelmed with wrong valuations,
fictitious leases, and rentals thrice as large as the reality.
" Yes, gentlemen of the jury," says the counsel for the under-
taking, " look upon this good old woman, who now stands before
you, with her child ! Certainly she is worthy of respect, she is
honest. Her life has been one long record of work and courage.
Never has she tried to rob her neighbour of a farthing ! But one
day she was told that she was to be driven from her home.
Some one told her that, in consideration of being evicted from the
den where she lives from hand to mouth, without even a lease,
she will be entitled to recover a great sum of money. Dreams are
coming true ; good fortune is at hand ; there is to be a shower of
gold over the whole district. And then, boundless claims crowd
upon us, exaggerations without limit. You say that no one is being
robbed. But it is the taxpayers who will have to pay ; that is
everybody. This poor old woman has two rooms under the tiles ;
she pays a rent of 150 francs a year ; she is offered the liberal sum
of 50 francs as compensation for her enforced removal. But
this is far from being enough. Come now, she must have 2,000
francs ! The jury, this generous jury, the providence of dis-
possessed persons, will surely not grant her less than this. And
they now come before you, gentlemen, and tell you some ridiculous
tale, as you \vill presently hear You are expected to pave
with gold the two ruinous and unwholesome garrets, which,
fortunately for her health and life, this poor woman is obliged
to quit. There, gentlemen, is the whole matter."
" But, no, gentlemen of the jury, you do not know," retorts the
opposing counsel, " what this unhappy woman will lose by being
turned out of her home. For forty years she has occupied this
114 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
dwelling, poor and miserable, it is true ; but bound up with her
dearest associations, her very life. All her recollections are con-
nected with the place. Her husband died there. Where can she
go, without finding herself in a strange land, in exile ? It is true
these garrets are high up, but there is a magnificent view from
them, a splendid panorama "
OPPOSING COUNSEL (with a sneer}. " The view is of course a
separate item ! "
THE CLAIMANT'S COUNSEL. " My learned friend laughs.
Everything, however insignificant, has an interest for one who is
descending into the vale of years. Habits have become fixed in
every detail, have passed into eccentricities if you like ; but in their
little circle they include the last remaining pleasures of old age. Re-
spect them, then, and think not that in paying for them, even at a
high rate, you have given their real value. You inflict an injury by
interfering with them, and it is this damage that the jury, always
an equitable, always a good judge, is bound to estimate and
compensate. Again, you are destroying old quarters of the town
out of regard for the beauty of the whole, and the health of the
greatest number. Let the greatest number then, in return for
these advantages, pay those on whom the change brings suffering.
The cheap lodgings of former times are disappearing from the
central part of the city ; the poor must seek them farther out ;
and when found they cost more. Lastly, the mere process of
removal, which my client obviously never contemplated, is also
costly. Is 2,000 francs too much for all that ? "
The jury decide to go the next morning to the places in
question and inspect every house and every apartment ; for they
have obtained a very poor idea of them through the contradictory
and fantastic descriptions of the rival orators ; and they have been
unable to gather much from the plans, which, as a rule, are quite
beyond their comprehension.
They make their little expedition, they deliberate, and, at the
next sitting, they award the old woman 100 francs compensation.
Thus, during sittings which last from a fortnight to whole
months, figures dance, millions slip away, and Paris is trans-
formed. Some landlords are made wealthy at a stroke by an
unexpected donation from the jury ; others do not even get the
fair value of their property. Some lessees rejoice ; others lament.
Compensations are scattered broadcast by pure haphazard, accord-
TAKING PROPERTY FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES
ing to the weather, the temper of the juries, or the caprices of
After all, the best plan would be to settle everything by a cast
of the dice, in the fashion of good Judge Bridlegoose.
THE COURT OF APPEAL
THE Court of Appeal will soon enter its new home. With the
appearance of this volume, the First President will take his seat
in the hall, resplendent with new gilding, the decoration of which
he has superintended so that it may be worthy of the First Chamber
of the Court.
But let us say a last farewell to what will so soon be a thing of
At the top of the staircase leading to the middle of the Galerie
Marchande, there stands the statue of a woman holding an open
book, on a page of which are inscribed the words In legibu s salus.
Here we find ourselves in a spacious vestibule. It once served as
a chapel to the law courts, and is embellished with seeming
porticoes and statues, painted so as to deceive the eye. This
vestibule, by means of inconvenient lobbies, affords entrance to
the Second and Third Chambers. If the visitor, instead of
entering the vestibule, will skirt the balustrade, till he comes to a
few steps, he will be able to descend straight into the First Chamber
THE COURT OF APPEAL
of the Court. It is here that on the i6th October the inaugural
address on the reopening of the law courts is delivered.
All the magistrates of the Court of Appeal meet there at
other times, in ac-
cordance with the
scribed above, for
the formal recep-
tion of a new
member of the
Court or the
eral's staff. Two
acting judges in-
troduce the new
member. At the
the chief registrar
reads aloud the
decree of nomina-
tion ; then, at the
invitation of the
he pronounces the
form of the oath
and the new
Philippe the form
ran as follows :
" I swear fidel-
ity to the King
of the French, A STAIRCASE OF THE COURT OF APPEAL.
and obedience to
the Constitutional Charta and the laws of the realm."
In 1849 a decree of October 22nd prescribed a different form
" Before God and men, I swear and promise, with my soul and
conscience, to perform my duties faithfully and well, to observe
Il8 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
strict secrecy regarding the deliberations of the Court, and to
conduct myself in all things as becomes an upright and loyal
Napoleon III. suppressed "God and men," "soul and con-
science " ; he replaced them by the Constitution and by his own
" I swear obedience to the Constitution and fidelity to the
President ; I swear also and promise to perform my duties faith-
fully and well," &c.
The " President " then gave place to the " Emperor " ; next,
"obedience to the Constitution" and "fidelity to the Emperor"
disappeared in 1870.
The different chambers of the Court of Appeal also meet
together in solemn sitting for the installation of the chief registrar.
All judges of first instance from whom an appeal lies to the
Court take the same oath as the magistrates of the Court of Appeal,
but before the First Appeal Chamber only, and in black gowns,
without the least ceremony. Judges of the Tribunal of Commerce
and all advocates before their admission also take an oath before
the First Chamber. The advocates present themselves in full
dress, with white bands and ermine-trimmed hood ; they pass
before the bar as their names are called, and, under the direction
of the bdtonnier, they pronounce the words " Je le jure " and make
They have sworn the oath administered by the registrar.
" I swear to neither say nor publish anything, in my character
of counsel, that may be contrary to law, regulation, good morals,
the safety of the State and the public peace, and never to forget the
respect due to the courts of justice and the public authorities."
The judges of all Chambers of the Court of Appeal meet
together with closed doors, and dressed in black gowns, to hear
appeals brought by advocates against sentences passed on them by
their Council of Discipline.
The following persons have a right to have their cases brought
before the Court of Appeal when they are charged with breaches
of the penal code : magistrates, generals, archbishops, prefects,
bishops, and grand officers of the Legion of Honour.
The Court is also charged with the ratification of letters of grace
by which the President of the Republic commutes the penalty of
persons condemned to death on appeal ; and it is a curious sight
THE COURT OF APPEAL
to see the con-
demned, alas, how
fallen in his prison
dress from the
ance he made at
the Court of
air, to this con-
fused medley of
legal forms. The
judges do not put
on their red robes
for his sake. These
are displayed, but
only those of the
First Chamber of
the Court, and
those of one other
of its chambers
appointed in ro-
tation to form
a complement to
the First Cham-
ber, at sittings
which are styled
they must not be
the opening sit-
tings before de-
scribed ; the sit-
tings now spoken
of are sittings for
business at which
must number at
least fourteen, and where the matters decided are disputes about
the civil status of citizens, actions for false imprisonment, and cases
M. PERIYIER, FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL.
120 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
sent back for rehearing after a judgment has been quashed by the
Court of Cassation. On ordinary days the First Chamber of the
Court of Appeal busies itself with a little of everything. On Tues-
days, Wednesdays, and Thursdays it meets under the presidency
of M. le Premier this is the regular, though rather familiar name
given to the First President of the Court. On Fridays it sits
under the auspices of the President of the Chamber.
To M. le Premier belongs the duty of apportioning the
business among the seven civil Chambers of the Court. He
naturally keeps for his own Chamber all the important cases which
demand extraordinary labour or are likely to create interest outside.
To him are assigned by right the following cases : questions affecting
the government, the municipalities and the public departments,
disputes relative to the authority of parents, to the custody of the
goods of absent persons, to applications made by married women
for power to act without their husbands' consent, and to the natural-
isation of aliens. The First Chamber also regulates adoptions, and
receives the oaths of experts, interpreters, &c. The sittings of
the Court of Appeal are distinguished from those of the Court of
First Instance only by the greater number of the judges, who
must be not less than five and not more than nine ; and the only
difference in costume is that the robes of the appeal judges have
gold instead of silver braiding.
The First Chamber of the Court of Appeal has the honour of
possessing the celebrated picture of the Crucifixion which belonged
to the Parliament of Paris. It is a marvellous work which cannot be
rightly seen during a sitting of the Court ; a picture where one may
faintly see around the Calvary, on a background of charming though
inappropriate landscape, a figure of Saint John, frail and slightly clad,
carrying a lamb ; an ascetic monarch in crown and robe bedecked
with lilies ; Saint Denis in the act of his martyrdom ; a sumptuous
Charlemagne ; and, among other figures to be noted, a trusty
spaniel with a dirty coat. Below this picture sits the First President.
The First Chamber of the Court is also remarkable for a registrar
who is a power in himself, and a benevolent power too, M. Piogey.
The presidents are glad to have his opinion, and he gives advice to
The moments of waiting before the sittings begin have here a
peculiar charm ; brilliant talkers are common at this bar, the
registrar is happy in repartee, and they have as much time as they
THE COURT OF APPEAL 121
want to run through their list of anecdotes ; for the members of
the bench, in the ardour of private deliberation, often keep the
court waiting till three in the afternoon. The calling of the cause
list is besides a more lively proceeding here than elsewhere; but
the credit of this must at present be given to M. Perivier, the
He is quite a modern president. His speech is high toned and
concise ; his gestures are familiar ; his expression is mobile and
always alert ; with a constant attitude of easy good humour,
checked now and then by an access of dignity, there is in him
none of the stiffness customary in times gone by. When necessary,
he puts an inquirer at his ease, and does not deny himself the
pleasure of a witty repartee. The Gazette des Tribunaiix might
publish every day flashes of wit thrown off by him during the last
sitting, as it used to publish those of First President Seguier but
he knows how to keep all to their proper level. In spite of his
unfailing geniality, he never forgets that he is the head of the
court ; he is skilled in the arts of management, and knows better
than any one how to quicken the pace of an advocate and get his
argument out of him. With a quick intelligence and indefatigable
powers of work, he never shrinks from his task, and his judgments,
written if need be in a single night, are models of vigour and
lucidity. It is curious to compare him with his predecessor, M.
Larombiere, who was also a judge of the first rank, but in a
very different style. In proportion as M. Perivier is lively and
impulsive, M. Larombiere was calm and reserved, though without
stiffness, having no more vivacity than befits a learned professor
of law. In proportion as M. Perivier holds by the small rules of
etiquette, merely modifying their rigour by his amiability, so much
did M. Larombiere disdain them, though at the same time he made
all around feel their chilling effect.
M. Larombiere, on working days, sat at a little table below the
bench, and he looked very imposing, though a stout little man
M. Perivier has had the table removed and never quits his
Both are characteristic types which will not be soon forgotten
by legal anecdotists.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
SOME OF THE COUNSEL
It is in the First Chamber more than anywhere else that the
great leaders of the Bar are commonly to be heard. There it was
that Maitre Lente argued in the Premsel case. There also have
been discussed the great financial cases of which the last few
years have been so prodigal, such as that of the Peruvian Guano
Company, and the Annuity Company ; the case of the corner in
copper bars ; and the suit against the Stock-brokers' Syndicate.
The last few years
have been fatal to
the most eminent
speakers of the First
Chamber; and several
fallen victims, .among
them being Le Ber-
quier, Allou and
Durier. Le Berquier
died six years ago.
But he is not for-
gotten, and the reason
why we write so few
lines in his praise is
that his son is with
us now. His was a
cynical but kindly
nature, and a loyal
soul ; he was an
elegant writer, his book on The Modern Bar being justly
celebrated, and judges liked to listen to his subtle statement and
breadth of argument.
In the speeches of Maitre Allou, it was the flow of the
language, the music of the diction, that held the ear of the court.
In every outburst of his eloquence, his style retained its purity.
In the most impassioned moment his voice never lost its perfect
modulation ; and his wealth of metaphor and resounding fluency
covered the dry severity of his reasoning. Most of the writers who
After Jules Jacquemard.
THE COURT OF APPEAL 123
have taken part in the production of this book only knew Maitre
Allou at a time when his power, though still imposing, was a little
on the decline and its majesty somewhat impaired. It is only by
reading aloud his speeches, above all that for Trochu, and by listen-
ing to the recollections of his contemporaries, that they have been
able to call up the image of the great orator as he was. Durier is
more present to all of us ; no one would be astonished at seeing
him reappear, and it would be a rare treat to hear once more, as of
old, in the First Chamber of the Court, his fluent speech, at once
so sparkling and so pregnant with conclusive reasoning. Mai I re
Lente never held the office of bdtonnier; but, none the less, he has
his place among the great ones \vho have passed away, and the
bar will always count him among the most glorious of its bygone
heroes. He was at once a brilliant orator and a first rate man of
business. He excelled in clearing up financial mystifications, in
the manipulation of figures, and in finding a way out of the most
hopeless difficulties. He could analyse illusory balance sheets, and
confused accounts with such ease, that, for the moment, the whole
medley seemed the simplest thing in the world, and people asked
one another how anyone could venture to attack financiers of such
scrupulous probity. \Yhen he waxed indignant, his indignation
convinced the most sceptical. How could they refuse to believe
the solemn declarations of this hearty straightforward man, who
appeals to your experience, gives you such lucid explanations, and
addresses you with such good humour a man who, if he had
a mind, could knock you down with a blow of his fist ? His
athletic figure, his powerful voice, his way of looking the judges
straight in the face, impressed them from the first ; his clear
style of speech completed their conquest. He never sought after
refinements of expression ; he merely used the words needed to
make himself understood. Though he had taken his degree and
passed through the Ecole Normale with About, Prevost-Paradol and
Weiss, he spoke as incorrectly as Berryer himself. But there was
in his voice, as it were, the clink of gold pieces ; the sheets of his
brief, as his hand strayed among them, rustled like bank-notes ;
and they seemed to shake in the very quiver of his sleeve. On
great occasions, when it was his task to restore the credit of some
institution which had been the subject of calumny, like the Bank,
or to excite pity for some misfortune, his talent took a higher
flight, his style became more flowing, his action more pathetic, his
124 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
emotion more contagious, till, overcome in his turn by the nervous
excitement he raised about him, his eyes streamed with tears, and
he fell back half fainting on his seat, in the atmosphere of ether
which enveloped him. 1
A scene like this took place in the First Chamber of the Court,
at the conclusion of his speech on behalf of the heirs of M.
Premsel, when the First President was compelled to check the
storm of applause, saying, " Gentlemen, let everybody admire the
orator from the bottom of his heart ; but do not forget that silence
must be kept in the presence of Justice."
Another great occasion was the trial of M. Wilson, before the
Correctional Court, when Maitre Allou, invoking the bust of the
ex-President of the Republic, cried out :
" You have before you a mournful and historic spectacle in this
grand old man. But two months ago, he was the equal of the
sovereigns of Europe, who rightly prized his patriotism and his
uprightness. He was France, he was the fatherland ! And now
in this hall, so familiar to the sweepings of our gaols, I stand before
you struggling to save the name of his daughter and his grand-
child from dishonour ! "
The task of maintaining these great traditions now falls on the
surviving ex-bdtonniers, Maitre Rousse, Maitre Betolaud, Maitre
Barboux, Maitre Oscar Falateuf, Maitre Martini, and Maitre
Maitre Rousse is one of the brightest glories of the bar. He
is neither a faultless extempore speaker, nor an impassioned orator.
His voice is sharp, his gesticulation angular. But he is a stylist,
steeped in Greek and Latin scholarship, who loves to adorn our
modern speech with classic beauty. His professional life has been
above criticism. His practice has been, comparatively speaking,
limited, and his talent is not of the kind which wins its reward
from the admiration of great financiers. He has been able to remain,
without becoming old-fashioned, the typical advocate of a past
age. The French Academy has chosen him as representative of
the bar ; he has been honoured by the friendship of illustrious
men ; but his best title to the admiration and respect of all is to
be found in his undaunted demeanour as bdtonnier, during the
troubles of the Commune ; while the speech he wrote for the open-
ing of the conferences in 1871 was a masterpiece.
1 See p. 39 ante.
THE COURT OF APPEAL
As to Maitre Betolaud, he is an advocate pure and simple. He
is, one might say, the advocate, stiff as the Procureur-General of
popular tradition, careful to bring no slur on a spotless character,
and scrupulously careful in the briefs he accepts and the arguments
he uses. When pleading, he thinks of nothing but how to place
the case fully before the judge. He has no outbursts of passion,
except when carried away by the feeling that there is an injustice
to be redressed. He avoids flourishes, except for an occasional
grave witticism. His strength comes from the accuracy of his ex-
pressions and the logical character of his ideas ; his self-respect is
the source of the authority which belongs to him.
Maitre Barboux is not indifferent to the graces of style or the
charm of apt expressions. His speeches are prepared with elegance
and care, and they sparkle with happy phrases and subtle aphor-
isms. He has a weakness for
definition, but he defines as no
one else can. It is he who de-
fined legal technicality as " an
ingenious absurdity of which we
must have a thorough know-
ledge before we can appreciate
its merit." His taste for Latin
quotations is perhaps excessive,
but he enlivens what he quotes
by his incisive voice and by the
connection in which he always
uses it. He has been called
a word artist in dry point ; the
criticism is just ; it should be
added that his finest periods are MAITRE BARBOUX.
touched in with aqua-tinta.
Maitre Oscar Falateuf is an enchanter ; he has grace, fervour,
constant sincerity, and a real emotion which no one, not even he
himself, can resist ; he has the kindest of hearts and the most tender
of voices ; he is the tenor, the poet, a tenor in the Italian style, and a
poet after Adolphe Musset, always fastidious, always full of feeling,
a man far more inclined towards poetry than prose. He will sing
of the attractions of love, of the woes of the forsaken mistress, of
the soothing influences of religion, and the sublime madness of
patriotism ; no one equals him in the art of dressing up an
126 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
obituary notice of some second-rate person, as happened on one
delicate occasion, when, coming forward on the public platform
in the name of the Paris Bar, he rose to his task, and gave his
hearers an unexpected display of forensic eloquence.
Maitre Martini has won the reputation of a wit, and thoroughly
deserves it. But this would astonish people who had only heard
him in court. He sticks close to his argument, almost harshly
with the tenacity of a mollusc that refuses to let go its hold ; at
the risk of seeming dry, he takes special pains to keep his natural
vivacity within bounds, so as not to let slip a word likely to distract
attention from the point he is handling. Is this disdain for his
judges ? Is it an economy of wit ? Is it discretion or timidity ?
It is none of these. It is simply cold calculation. He reserves
his fireworks for conversations with his friends, for chats in the
Salle des Pas-Perdus, and for 'professional dinner parties. These
are curious functions which advocates, in evening dress, attend, a
dozen at a time, to enjoy the hospitality of a member of the
council or some candidate for a seat on that body, and form a
gloomy funereal party round the hostess, the only lady present.
Maitre Martini is the lion of these little feasts. It is then that,
a perfect batonnier, he shows his marvellous power of conversation
and his incomparable wit, reeling out legal anecdotes and stories of
the day with a fluency that none can hope to rival. Of Maitre
Cresson, Maurice Joly wrote, in 1862, that to the labours of his
profession he brought a capacity and zeal which had won for him
precocious successes. To these same qualities are due the honours
of his declining years. He no longer has the youthful and some-
what unruly vigour which his admirers marked as his chief charac-
teristic, but he has .remained an administrator ; he was the most
practical of all the batonniers, and he has bequeathed his name to
the library of the order.
The batonnier now in office is Maitre Du Buit, a tall, spare
man, very stiff, with the pale, drawn face of a doctrinaire. He
pleads with a pitiless rigour and a sovereign contempt for any one
who differs from him in opinion ; he has a domineering tone and
brings a moral pressure to bear on any judge who seems disinclined
to agree with him. Modest, in spite of his haughty exterior, he
has been able to win the esteem of his brethren without flattering
them. This is the highest compliment that could be paid him.
By the side of the bdtonniers we could mention many other
THE COURT OF APPEAL I2/
names : the ex-ministers Waldeck-Rousseau, Martin-Feuillee, and
Thevenet ; senators Leon Renault, and Berenger ; and Maitre
Clausel de Coussergues, the deputy. Maitre Devin has taken part
in most of the great financial cases ; the presence of Maitre Clery>
or Maitre Carraby is indispensable to give a case the true Parisian
stamp. Maitre Pouillet and Maitre Huard appeared in the First
Chamber of the Court of Appeal in the Aciers-Martin suit, and in
the great telephone case. Maitre Ployer But, stay !
if we go on any longer with this list, our book will end in being
a mere enumeration or panegyric, and will lose the character of
impartiality which should mark a work written in collaboration.
Of the other Chambers of the Court of Appeal besides the First
nothing need be said. They have the same number of magistrates,
but are more confined in space. From eleven o'clock in the
morning the different Chambers are thrown open, one after an-
other, at intervals of ten minutes, beginning with the Seventh
Chamber. They have a regular programme for each day in the
week, but in accordance with the system introduced by First
President Perivier, cases are often deferred from one day to the
day following, and, whatever engagements the counsel may have
made elsewhere, they must be in their place, for the Court of
Appeal never waits for any one.
ADJUNCTS TO THE COURT OF APPEAL
To find the Procureur-General, the best plan is to ask the way
of one of the court keepers on duty. After a pleasant walk a
building is reached which has quite the look of a government
department. Pass through the glass doors, which shut again
without a sound, and here you are in the ante-chamber. On the
left is an inner door pierced with a little glass window like that
which leads to a green-room ; on the right, an usher, duly adorned
with the chain of office, sits slumbering in an upright attitude.
The chief law officer of the government has been sometimes
accused of a too great readiness to relieve the cares of office by
indulging in the pleasures of lighter literature. This legend can
certainly not have arisen from the appearance of his private room.
Everything there betokens that we are in the presence of justice.
The whole place has an air of plainness and learned severity. The
most humble dentist makes a greater display of gilding. The
apartment is large, longer one way than the other ; the light
enters by three enormous windows, the glare but slightly softened
by dark blue curtains. In the Procureur- General's private room
there are only two colours, black and blue. Blue predominates in
the curtains, the carpet, the walls, and the wall paper, black in
By a handsome mantel-piece, surmounted by a deep unoccupied
niche, which waits for the bust of some celebrated man, possibly
the present Procureur-General himself, stand four arm-chairs,
straight in shape and black in colour, arranged in symmetrical
order. Between the two windows is a large sofa, of such severe
aspect that no one would have courage to sit down upon it. The
ADJUNCTS TO THE COURT OF AI PEAL
recoils from fear
of committing an
middle of the room
is occupied by a
table, so large that
the whole Penal
Code might be
printed on it ; at
present, however, it
has nothing on it
but a Sevres vase
in harmony with
the rest of the room
a graceful little
attention to M.
Perivier from the
Chief of the State.
Add to the above
ing presses, with
a clock which has
wandered from the
is always too slow,
and you will have
a catalogue of the
whole array of judi-
At the extreme
end of the apart-
ment, the Procu-
be seen seated at
a little table, be-
neath the portrait
of a venerable sage in
room), who from his
M. QUESNAY DE BEAUREPAIRK, PUOCUREUR-GENEK AL.
red robes (the only gay note of colour in the
frame sadly watches his successor signing
130 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
papers. All this has a depressing effect, and fills visitors with a
presentiment of evil. But the Procureur-General is accustomed to
it, and is unmoved by these mournful surroundings. With an air
of unvarying calmness he listens gravely to grievances and com-
plaints, to prayers and supplications ; occasionally a faint smile
glimmers on his clean-shaved lips when some office-hunter mis-
takes the door, and comes in to ask for a recommendation to aid
him in obtaining a tobacco shop. But it is not here, in the
midst of his administrative work, that we intend to draw the
Procureur-General's portrait ; we shall see him at his best in the
full light of the Court of Assize.
We are now arrived at the office of the Court of Appeal.
Before mounting the stairs, let us take a glance on our left. All
these doors opening on a long corridor, so strangely built that it
looks like the gangway of a passenger steamer, are those of the
private rooms allotted to the three Advocates-General and to
the numerous secretaries employed by the Ministry of Justice.
There is nothing very interesting to be seen, and we can pass on.
In all these rooms men are engaged all day in carefully sifting
papers, which are brought to the Procureur-General for signature
THE RECORD OFFICE OF THE COURT OF APPEAL
This office is situated at the top of a staircase, the walls of
which are enlivened by the notice : " Civil Record Office to the
right, Criminal Record Office to the left." Let us, following this
guide, first enter the Civil Office.
We find ourselves in a very long room, where a number of
clerks are seated at little desks, writing away under the stern eye
of a deputy registrar, whose raised seat gives him a view over the
whole room. It looks like a school-room where the scholars are
engaged in doing their impositions. Nor, as a matter of fact, are
these scribes amusing themselves ; they are making engrossments.
An engrossment is an authentic judicial decision, judgment, or
decree, put into legal language by the registrar. The word aptly
expresses the thing ; a large roll of paper on which is stated in
great detail the opinion of the judges who have given the decision.
ADJUNCTS TO THE COURT OF APPEAL 131
An engrossment may be recognised by several distinctive peculiari-
ties. In the first place, the paper which receives it and preserves
its legal beauties is yellow in colour, very stiff in texture, ex-
tremely ugly, and showing traces of hair. It is generally known
to the public as stamped paper ; but the persons employed in
the office have christened it "our high-class illustrated paper.' y
The style is generally incomprehensible, and in a well-drawn
engrossment at least four words out of five ought to be quite
superfluous. All engrossments end with the words : " For which
the fee is. . . ." The engrossment, in short, costs a great deal
of money, this being one of the peculiarities above referred to.
Once completed, engrossments are carefully arranged on special
shelves, where they remain indefinitely, till some day an inquisitive
litigant comes and asks the registry clerk the question : " May I
examine the judgment or decree which has condemned me to pay
such-and-such a sum to Mr. So-and-so ? " Then this judicial record
is hunted up, and the victim can consult it at his ease, but always
in return for the payment of one franc. Why this one franc ?
you ask me. My dear sir, I know nothing at all about it. People
who want to consult engrossments have to pay a franc ; that is
all I can tell you.
This office is not a lively place.
The office for criminal matters, which lies on the right, is a
receptacle for papers relating to cases tried at the assizes. It
consists of two rooms; one for the inevitable clerks, the other
reserved for advocates who wish to study the set of papers. Every
set of papers respecting a person accused of crime pays two visits
to the office of the Court of Appeal : one before the trial, the
other, which is final, after the trial. It is born in the office, and
it dies in the office.
Here every one is affable : the clerks are polite, and constant
familiarity with criminal procedure has given them a marked
urbanity. An advocate must apply to them if he wants any
information connected with his case, and it must be confessed
that this information is always given with the promptest courtesy.
After having searched through ponderous registers and hunted
through many files of paper, the counsel for the defence receives
the document he requires, and goes to read it in the second apart-
ment. This is a little room, very bare, very gloomy, looking out
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
on a high dead wall ; its sole furniture is a table and chairs. What
countless histories have been read through in this room, feverishly
ransacked by advocates getting up their defence ; and in these sheets
of paper, scanned hurriedly, one after another, how many a tale of
shame has been made known, how base the sins, how heartrending
the sorrows that have seen the light !
THE COURT OF CASSATION
LET us leave the Salle des Pas-Perdus in the middle of some
afternoon, while our ears are dizzy with the incessant buzz of
conversation that fills the place for three hours daily, and half
deafened by the shrill tinkle of the bell that summons solicitors
before the judge who is sitting in chambers, or into the Auction
Room. Let us then follow the long Prisoners' Gallery, and make
our way into the corridors of the Court of Cassation. We shall be
astonished at the extraordinary contrast that exists between two
parts of the Palace so near to each other in situation. Down below,
the noise and tumult of the crowd of advocates, suitors, and specta-
tors ; here, the gloomy silence of a deserted dwelling. One might
say that jurisprudence, an enchantress armed with a spell to pro-
duce sleep,had plunged her fervent admirers into a profound slumber.
Old counsellors, ranged on stately chairs, wag their venerable heads,
crowned with the black velvet cap whose peculiar shape has
procured for its wearers the irreverent and flippant name of
Lancers; a few clerks pass silently through the long corridors.
A solitary municipal guard, seated at his post on a bench in the
Galerie Saint Louis, looks half frightened by the solemnity of the
place. Such are the sombre shades which guard the sanctuary of
the Supreme Court.
The sittings of the Court complete the impression of utter
dreariness given by the building itself. Here are none of the
glowing or brilliant orations, none of the impassioned or mirth-
moving debates which engage the attention of counsellors and judges
in the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance. Matters of
fact, with their endless complications, their human interests, their
infinite variety are rigidly excluded. In the Court of Cassation
law takes its full revenge ; the only things mentioned there are the
134 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
driest rules of law, profound decisions of the Supreme Court, or
interminable arguments cited from authors who have discoursed
learnedly on some infinitesimal point of jurisprudence. Here
may be seen the triumph of the old classic disputation ; for
the speakers in the Supreme Court still argue pro and con, ending
with a conclusion in baralipton, as they used to do at the old
Sorbonne ; Latin alone is lacking at the banquet. Thus oratory
holds but an unimportant place at the Court of Cassation ; the
main dish in every suit is the Case, drawn up carefully and at great
length by the advocate ; this contains a detailed statement of the
whole matter, and a minute discussion of every legal problem
involved in it, with endless divisions and subdivisions. When the
counsellor appointed to report on the suit has brought his
monotonous lecture to a close, the advocate develops his Case, and
the Advocate-General states his conclusions. Then, if the question
has only a slight technical importance, the counsellors form a circle
in the centre of the Court itself to discuss, adopt, or reject the
judgment prepared beforehand by the reporter. This is called
faire le rondeau. And there, in the cold light of the hall, beneath
the gilded oak ceiling of the Civil Chamber, the gray or white heads
may be seen to shake, and passion a passion inspired by pure law
revives once more. The apathy, the somnolence of a moment ago
disappear, and, for an instant, these hoary sages are again inspired
with an ardour which seemed for ever extinguished.
The principal court where these sittings are held may be called
handsome ; it is that for criminal cases, since the new chamber for
civil cases has for the last twenty years been in process of
construction. It would be more pleasing were it free from the
perpetual allegories of justice which painters and architects scatter
in such profusion over all the tribunals of France. At the side, the
Galerie Saint Louis, with its Romanesque architecture, its columns
and its red-coloured arches, interposes an original note, the only one,
unhappily, in this chill and classic pile. The reserved gallery of the
Court, with its row of marble busts, that of the Procureur-General,
with its portraits, of judges in red robes, have a fitting official
austerity. L'Hospital and d'Aguesseau, Cujas and Patru, Chancellor
Seguier and President Henrion de Pansey, seem from their gilded
frames to regard with satisfaction the stiffness and solemnity of
their resting-place, and the melancholy painted profile of the
Procureur-General Ronjat opposite them.
THE COURT OF CASSATION
The silence, a silence which is rarely broken by the cautious
steps of an occasional visitor, and an icy coldness are the unvarying
characteristics of the precinct where sits the Supreme Court of
France. Let us respect it, let us imitate those who pass through it
out of curiosity or in fulfilment of their daily task, and leave these
lonely galleries, with hushed voice and finger on our lips, lest we
disturb the repose of its inhabitants. The First President of the
Supreme Court is however a man of wit and lively character
M. Mazeau, once an advocate there, who has been a Senator and a
Minister of State. He must find life dull at the Supreme Court.
THE COURTS AT NIGHT
FOUR o'clock strikes, then half-past four. The whole Palace of
Justice will soon become as gloomy as the Court of Cassation itself.
There are a few more chats in
the robing-rooms, some items of the
latest gossip pass to and fro, as the
counsel resume their ordinary dress,
and there is a rustling of umbrellas
taken haphazard from the heap.
Then advocates and judges drop
off into the corri-
dors, under the
cast on them by
ladies of a par-
ticular class, who
come to seek their
fortune at the
breaking up of
the Courts. If
you notice the
lights of the rob-
mering in the
darkness at a late
hour, it is because
LEAVING THE COURTS.
some trial in the
Assize Court is
As a general rule everything is
dragging its slow length along,
finished by six o'clock.
But in winter time, when nine o'clock strikes, there is a
faint return of animation. In the black corridors, in the Salle
THE COURTS AT NIGHT
des Pas-Perdus, looming larger in the darkness, and echoing
beneath the resounding tread of a solitary night-watchman, the
noise of closing doors is heard from a distance, and shadowy
forms move rapidly towards the Auction Room or one of the Civil
Chambers. Have Malesherbes and Berryer descended from their
marble pedestals ? And does their impassioned eloquence gather
round them at night the busts of the illustrious judges and
famous advocates whom one sees in the daytime ranged along the
corridors of the Supreme Court or the Advocates' Library ? Not so.
More humble are these shades, and less fanciful the object of their
zeal. These are young probationers, or simple law students, come
to prepare themselves by means of evening conferences for the
contests of the bar. Each of these conferences miniatures of the
advocates' conference has its day, its hour, and its local habitation.
Each has its constitution. Each elects its governing body. At all
of them legal questions are discussed, and the orators, wearing
their robes, occupy the scats reserved for the judges, the govern-
ment representative, and the bar. The practice is at once diverting
and useful. It ends by eleven o'clock, and now the numerous
officials who lodge at the law courts can sleep at their ease, and
the sentries also. They will not be troubled again till the next
CRIMINAL COURTS THE ACCUSED
BESIDES advocates, judges, and others who are at home in the
Palace, besides the litigants who are attracted thither by their
interests, there is the host of unfortunates whom justice drags
thither against their will. This long array of persons coming
up for trial is now to pass in review before us. Among them
we shall see the professional thief, educated at the house of
correction, and taught there to handle no tools save the crowbar
and the picklock ; we shall also find the honest citizen,
arrested in the eddy of some surging mob, and standing, dazed
with terror, in the dock as the accomplice of anarchists. Perhaps we
shall also find there the popular poet or the fashionable pamphleteer.
We are certain to come across the heroines of love idylls and
maidens of nihilistic fame, jealous lovers and husbands who have
taken the law into their own hands, besmirched damsels and guilty
women, charlatans and procurers, sharpers in broadcloth, and
bullies in blue cotton jackets, unskilful Shylocks and speculators
CRIMINAL COURTS THE ACCUSED 139
who have been a little too clever. The most various classes will
pass by in our kaleidoscope.
For it is not true that everything ends with a song. The
simpleton who said so knew well that the bench of justice is
the final goal. Misery, vice, love, politics, finance, sometimes
literature, all come to the law courts for their closing scene,
and extremes are ever meeting in this chamber of moral horrors.
Society is going to reveal itself to us with its monsters and its
victims, laying bare its blemishes and its ulcers ; we shall see it
naked in its ugliness and its deformity, often odious, but more
often humorous. Crime has its grotesque as well as its tragic side,
and no great drama is without its comic relief.
THE COURT OF SIMPLE POLICE
OUR review must begin with the least important on the list ;
the humble folk charged with petty delinquencies who are to be
found at the Police Court.
To reach it we have not to make a long journey. When by the
boulevard gate we enter the Great Court of the Palace of Justice,
we find ourselves face to face \vith a broad staircase, on the right of
which is the old entry to the Conciergerie, and on the left the Police
Pass through a side door, go down a few steps, and cross a little
court which lies before you. Enter a large gloomy ante-chamber,
and here you are. The Court itself is right in front.
It is lighted by two lofty windows ; but the daylight they let in
never reaches as far as the back of the Court, which nearly always
remains in shadow. Its general aspect is cold and cheerless, and
beneath these stone arches, which date from Saint Louis, the atmo-
sphere is always damp.
It is well known that the justices of peace, besides their civil
functions, are charged with the duty of sitting on contraventions, 1
those peccadilloes of the Penal Code, which usually cost the offender
the modest sum of one franc, sometimes more (the maximum fine
being fifteen francs), with the alternative of five days' imprisonment,
and of which no record is kept.
At Paris there is only one Police Court for the twenty arrondisse-
1 The French law divides offences into contraventions, misdemeanours, and crimes.
The first class are within the competency of the justice of peace ; the second belong to
the police or correctional chambers. of the Tribunals of First Instance ; the third come
under the cognisance of the Courts of Assize.
THE COURT OF SIMPLE POLICE 141
ments. Every justice of peace sits there in turn for one week.
Sittings are held every day in the week except Mondays, and, of
course, Sundays. Besides the justice of peace, the Court comprises
three commissaries of police appointed by the Procureur-General to
represent the Ministry of Justice, one acting as chief, the two others
being his deputies ; lastly comes a chief registrar and four registrar's
clerks. The Police Court is by far the busiest tribunal in France.
In 1890 it issued summonses against 43,528 defendants, including
publicans, shop-keepers, drivers of public vehicles, porters, house-
owners, &c. Leaving the pavement before one's house ill-swept,
shaking carpets out of the window, watering the flowers on the
window-sills too copiously, not putting up the shutters of a shop
soon enough, letting a dog stray without a collar or muzzle, such
are the delinquencies which bring before this indulgent Court
hundreds of worthy men who have unwittingly broken some police
The number of summonses issued in 1890 was, as stated above,
43,528 ; which, after all, is not so very large for a city of 2,500,000
But the Court of Simple Police, a deduction being made for
Sundays, Mondays, fete days, and the vacation (during which it only
sits three times a week), only holds about 240 sittings in the year.
If you divide the 43,528 delinquents by 240, you will have nearly
200 cases for every sitting. Each sitting lasts, according to the
expedition of the presiding magistrate, from an hour and a half
to three hours. This only gives about one minute for each
How do they manage to get through the business at such
miraculous speed ?
Listen, and we shall be able to satisfy ourselves by actual
The representative of the Ministry of Justice begins. He has
put each delinquency into a particular class according to its
He then proceeds as follows : " Summoned for a breach of the
police regulations as to wheeled carriages, Pierre, Paul, Jacques,
From time to time, at the calling out ot each name, the word
" Present !" comes from the back of the hall.
142 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
As soon as the roll-call is ended, the sitting magistrate
who has put a mark on his list against the names of the ab-
sentees, reads these names over again, passes sentence on them
in default, and inflicts on each delinquent the maximum fine
The names of those charged who are present in Court are then
read out a second time.
" Which of the persons named have anything to say ? " asks the
Two or three defendants step forward, and mutter some kind of
excuse which receives little attention ; and the whole of this second
batch are condemned in the same penalty, smaller however than
that inflicted on the absent.
For certain offences there is a fixed price, just as if they
were patties ; but an offence of this kind costs more and brings
less return than the pastrycook's productions. Thus, every one
breaking the police regulations as to wheeled carriages is fined
five francs, if absent ; three francs, if present. But, in the
majority of cases, delinquents prefer to suffer judgment by
The time spent in coming to court causes them a total loss
greater than the penalty inflicted in case of non-attendance, even
though this be on the highest scale allowed by law.
Sometimes the magistrate gives reasons for his sentence in a
solemn preamble, " Whereas, &c.," worthy of the Court of Cassation.
At certain times, moreover, the Police Court assumes a kind of
political character. As for instance on the day following a public
demonstration, when it is crowded with loafers and spectators
arrested in the confusion for making a disturbance, who are lucky
to have escaped being brought before the Correctional Police Court
for resisting the officers of the law.
On these days, according to some, the peace-maker on the
bench becomes ' an accomplice in the infamous tyranny of the
police"; according to others, he helps in saving social order from
the attacks of anarchy.
In cases of this kind, professional men frequently, and some-
times advocates, may be seen at the bar, but as a rule the Court of
Simple Police decides cases summarily without listening to any
THE COURT OF SIMPLE POLICE
Astonishment has been sometimes expressed at the rapidity
with which magistrates of correctional police get through the cases
that come before them. What should be said of the Simple
Police Court ? If one acts by steam, the other must work by
THE COURT OF CORRECTIONAL POLICE ,
LET us leave the Court of Simple Police, pass under the arch
which we find on our right, and make our way round the Sainte-
Chapelle ; we find ourselves in front
of folding doors over which are
printed the words : Tribunal Correc-
We have just seen those humble
folk who count for nothing in the
hierarchy of crime ; we shall here
meet the middle class, or as one may
say the burgesses of vice and misery.
We mount to the first floor, and
find ourselves at the eighth and ninth
Chambers. At the door we are
stopped by a municipal guard, who
says, in the tone of an omnibus con-
ductor, " Full up !" So it is ; within,
the people are crowding in a closely
packed throng, attracted by the widely
spread belief that there is nothing
Court. Very often,
so amusing as a sitting of the Correctional
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT
From a sketch by
however, the idler who has turned in there with the hope of
spending a good lively afternoon comes out with moist eyes, as
much taken by surprise as the stranger who forgot that serious
dramas are sometimes performed at the Vaudeville Theatre.
As a matter of fact, a visitor to the Correctional Court will
laugh or cry according to his temperament. I have met one of
its regular frequenters who used to say that
nothing saddened him so much as a case of
adultery. The desolated hearth, the deserted
husband, the dark shadow cast over the future
of the children, all these thoughts rose up
before him, and forced themselves upon his
mind whenever one of those gross cases came
up for hearing which the general public greets
with roars of laughter. But it is to be feared
that the majority belong to the class who
share the opinion of Ma Cousine, and at the
sight of the injured husband say with the dramatist Meilhac : " It
is useless to conceal the fact; every time we meet a case of that
sort it gives us pleasure."
We, who wish to see the Correctional Court under its two
aspects, shall take two guides in our visit : the first will be a
disciple of Democritus, the second a pupil of Heraclitus of Ephesus.
Following these two leaders, John who laughs
and John who cries, we shall be able, in spite
of the orders of the guard, to slip through the
barrier, and make our way into the Court in a
But let us first of all take a look round at
the approaches. We see an immense staircase,
opening on to the Court of the Sainte-
Chapelle, and leading to the four Chambers
appropriated to this jurisdiction ; the eighth
and ninth Chambers are on the first floor ; the
tenth and eleventh on the second ; on each
landing is a miniature Salle des Pas-Perdus.
Unlike the Chambers of the Civil Court, these are not confined
to special kinds of cases. However, during the second period of
the Boulanger crisis, when the movement was on the decline,
political cases came before the ninth Chamber, at that date under
From a sketch by
146 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
the presidency of a judge whose severity for some time was a
matter of constant talk. During the first period, press offences
and cases of riot came before the judges of the eighth Chamber,
who were rather inclined to clemency.
Eleven o'clock ! A crowd of people are hurrying up the stairs
witnesses, interested parties, and spectators. The advocates arrive
by the corridors : some enter the Courts where their cases call them ;
others who, on the contrary, are in quest of cases, remain outside,
with a busy air, their brief bags empty, or, more often, stuffed full
of old newspapers. These are the canvassing advocates ; a distinct
type, hitherto undescribed, we believe, at any rate little known to
the general public. It is our duty therefore, in a work dealing
with the legal side of life, to devote a few pages to them. The
trouble will not be thrown away, for to point out an evil is always
a step towards its removal.
The despised profession of a canvassing advocate is carried on,
either here or in the prison corridors, by certain individuals widely
differing in age, whose notions on the meaning of the word dignity
are, to say the least of it, incomplete.
The canvassers at prisons content themselves with greasing
the palms of warders who are willing to recommend them to the
prisoners during the hour for exercise. The advocate does not in
this way obtain clients who pay high fees, but he may sometimes
get hold of a sensational case. His name will be printed in the
newspapers, and they will be a good advertisement for him. These
canvassers for briefs extra muros, these dwellers in the suburbs, are
not very interesting, owing to the extreme simplicity of the
methods they employ.
The canvassing advocate of the Correctional Court is, on the
contrary, very amusing to follow in his scientific poaching
manoeuvres seeking whom he may devour. His plan of opera-
tions is complex ; he has at one and the same time to drive the
game into his snares, and to keep a look out for the keepers,
in his case represented by the bdtonnier and the members of the
Council of the Order.
The Paris Bar is rather poor in individuals of this type ; it
however possesses a few specimens of the species, who are known
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT 147
throughout the law courts. Any barrister or judge will easily
point them out to you, and they take care, for the matter of that,
to make themselves conspicuous by passing their whole day in
the chambers or ante-chambers of the Correctional Court.
Round the heads of the profession, members of the pioneer corps,
as they say in the army, gravitate a number of timid satellites
apprentices who do their utmost to imitate the great stars, but
want the qualification of boldness indispensable for success. The
appearance of an honest member of the bar makes them nervous.
Let a member of the Council happen to pass by, and they are
seized with a panic. If the bdtonnier shows his face, they are off
like a shot. . . .
But, by the side of these lesser men, it is interesting to watch
the evolutions of the leaders of this special bar. These latter do
not hide ; they display themselves. They are perfectly conscious
of the contempt they inspire ; but this causes them no uneasiness.
Their canvassing is stamped with a certain grandeur. There is
arrogance in their solicitation, magnificence in their humiliation,
and pride in the way they bear the disdain of their brethren.
They seem to have taken as their device the saying of Danton ;
" Audacity, and then again audacity ! " At the first stroke of eleven
they are on the look out, moving about through the midst of the
crowd of defendants, witnesses,and spectators who are waiting for the
opening of the Correctional Chambers. Weeping women, brought
thither for shop-lifting at the Magasin du Louvre, or caught in open
adultery, are the first victims, their very air pointing them out to
the canvassers. The latter cast the net, or rather the line, a little
at a venture, and with the risk of meeting a contemptuous rebuff.
The client once hooked, they play him for his money, proving to-
him, to use their own words, that it is " much better to pay forty sous
more and have a good advocate."
One of these freebooters practises his profession with a superb
maestria, with an activity and zeal positively astounding. The
type of his class, he canvasses in the corridors, he canvasses in
the Courts, even in the dock itself. He canvasses sitting, he can-
vasses standing, he is canvassing now, and always will be ; and his
dreams, if he has any, ought to bring before his view a delusive
mirage of wonderful successes in his art, of marvellous anglings
for briefs, of extraordinary clients who let themselves be caught
everything is possible up to a louis d'or. How magnificent he
148 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
looks while engaged in his daily rounds, moving about like the
busiest of mankind, his head high, his eye wide open, with a noble
bearing like that of a horse suddenly reined in ; turning his face
incessantly from side to side, like a cabman on the look out,
exploring the streets with piercing glance, in eager quest for the
slightest sign of a client. This is not a canvassing advocate ; he
is the canvasser, the leading genius, the emperor of his kind.
In a few moments we shall see his disciples in Court, and
there let us do them one justice to make up for that which they
get done to their clients they are by no means niggardly of their
rhetoric. One of them, Maitre Y , is celebrated for his zeal
in trying to win hopeless cases. He is gifted with a skill in the
art of speaking which is amply proved by his flow of language,
and with an astonishing wealth of argument, or rather with a power
of dressing up the same argument in different ways, so as
to present it three or four times. Never stopping at an inter-
ruption, he goes straight on, in the hope of wresting the welcome
words " We are with you " from the very weariness of the Court.
This advocate is the terror of the judges, and they can scarce
retain their equanimity when they see him appear at the bar.
With Maitre Z it is the same thing. Only, when he is
speaking, a listener can indulge in forty winks, or more if he
wishes. In any case, both these gentlemen make people yawn.
There is also a third who, as a rule, talks rodomontade, and
never fails to excite shouts of laughter. Unfortunately for French
gaiety, he rarely appears at the bar ; and, unfortunately also for
law reporters, he buttonholes them in the corridors, in order to tell
them, with an ineffable smile, about the occasional cases in which
he is retained.
The canvassing advocate's career is of brief duration, and the
members of this order are constantly changing .... One after
another, in his turn, ends in being caught some day, while engaged
in open poaching, by the officers of the Council of the real Order.
The poacher then betakes himself to the dubious profession of a
general agent, which is his proper field, unless he prefers, as many
of them have already done, to take refuge in politics. Sic transit
gloria mundi. Our readers have now heard enough about these
prowlers dressed in advocates' gowns, so let us cross the threshold
and enter the Court itself. With the exception of the dock in which
the prisoners are placed as they come from the Souriciere or the
ADVOCATES OF THE CORRECTIONAL COURT.
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT 151
Depot, it is practically identical with the Civil Courts described
above. Note however that here the registrar sits immediately
below the judicial bench.
But there is a great difference in the character of the spectators.
In the Civil Court, excepting the advocates and the parties to
the cause, we saw no one but unfortunates come for warmth or for
shelter from the rain.
Here there are real loungers besides the witnesses; good stout
mothers of families, people living on small independent incomes,
law students, clerks with a spare hour to waste, little family parties
in search of amusements that cost nothing. By their side are
wenches without any covering for their heads, come to see their
lovers tried ; street roughs come to encourage a mistress or a " pal " ;
mothers come to hear how much " time " their scapegrace sons will
have to do. On certain days, numbers of loose women, summoned
to the Palace for being without the certificates required by the
police, come in a crowd to spend the day at la currectionnelle,
From this dense throng there rises a strong frouzy smell of
seething humanity ; add to this perfume that of the boots of the
municipal guards ; season it with the
stench of filthy rags ; mix the whole
with steam arising from the perspira-
tion of advocates, ushers, and judges,
and you will have a full explanation
of the little flasks of vinegar that
stand, near the Codes, before the three
judges who form the Court, and before
the public prosecutor's deputy sitting
silent on his chair. This little flask
is a privilege of the magistrates.
The advocates have none at the bar, and the registrars possess
them only when, like M. Lievin, they have occupied their office
so long that they are almost become actual presidents of the
Chamber to which they act as secretaries.
THE VINEGAR BOTTLE.
THE AMUSING SIDE OF THE CORRECTIONAL COURT
Even for those most inclined to derive amusement from petty
correctional cases, there are days when even Gwynplaine J could
1 The hero of Victor Hugo's romance, L'/ionntte qi<i rit.
THli PARIS LAW COURTS
not laugh ; for instance, those when a financial case or a charge ot
fraudulent imitation comes up for hearing.
But even when the case contains food for laughter, everything
depends on the president. The amusing points in the hearing are
brought out or passed over according as the judges like or dislike
their functions at the Correctional Court. Some time ago there
was a curious example of the latter. The first day he was called
on to preside, this Solon, who had only entered Court at twelve,
had by half-past two disposed of no less than seventy-four cases !
There is an instance of another president from whom it was
hopeless to try and get a laugh. One day a prisoner attracted
the attention of the whole Court
by his extraordinary apparel.
From the moment he appeared
in the dock, the people pointed
him out to one an-
other with suppress-
ed fits of laughter,
every one's attention
being fixed on the
amusing trial they
expected to hear.
The culprit, a tall
strapping fellow, was
dressed in woman's
clothes ! Such an
attempt at deception
M. LIEVIX had never been seen.
This man was a
vagabond. But in less than two minutes after his name had been
called he was judged, convicted, and taken away by the guards.
The president had not even asked him the reason for his disguise.
Other judges like to give a humorous turn to the trials. On
one occasion there appeared a lady, no longer young, but
coquettish in air and highly rouged. The judge asked her some
personal questions, at which she hesitated, simpered, smiled, and
replied, " I do not tell my age any longer." " Very well, madam,"
said he, " tell us any age you like." Sometimes it is the presidents
themselves who provide the public with something to laugh at.
Such was the worthy judge whom cases of procuring young girls
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT 153
for immoral purposes used to throw into an extraordinary state of
excitement. At the end of a long trial, he once recalled one of
the girls who had been procured by her assumed name, crying out,
" Blanchette, come here ! "
Some austere presidents enjoin silence at the first sign of mirth,
adding that no one should ever laugh in a court of justice. But
they themselves used to excite laughter by the famous phrase " Go
and sit down ! " addressed to witnesses. This saying, which in the
conversation of persons unused to good society is equivalent to
"Shut up ! " or "Hold your noise!" has now in Court been re-
placed by the words " You can now retire." This is so much
gained for the majesty of justice.
Offences tried before the Correctional Court are numerous and
varied : thefts, acts of swindling, frauds, breaches of trust, wrongful
conversion of goods seized, assaults, abusive language, &c. Quarrels
between house-porters and disputes between neighbours are those
in which the public takes most pleasure, especially when old
gossips relate with many blushes the invectives they have hurled
in one another's faces.
" Sir," says one, " this woman has covered me with insults."
THE PRESIDENT. State the insults.
THE WITNESS. Oh, 'sir, I dare not
THE PRESIDENT. But you must dare.
THE WITNESS. Well, sir, she called me a ... hetaira, but
she did not use that exact word.
On which the whole Court roars with laughter.
On entering the Court we find the box occupied by a witness
one of those who love the sound of their own voices.
It is an open-air huckstress, a well-set-up dame who has been
attacked and robbed by a strolling vagabond.
THE PRESIDENT. You swear to tell the whole truth and
nothing but the truth ?
" Yes, sir," answers the buxom female.
THE PRESIDENT (in formal tones], Very well, then. Say " I
The witness makes no sign.
THE PRESIDENT (losing his temper}. I tell you to raise your
hand and to take the oath. Are you deaf?
THE WITNESS (starting off at a gallop}. Oh, sir, nothing of the
kind, I am glad to say. I take the oath, as I hope for salvation.
By this crucifix, sir, I swear to tell the whole truth, and nothing
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
but the truth. But that, sir, I shall do of course ; for in the first
place I never told a lie. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT. Very well ; make your deposition.
THE WITNESS. With pleasure, sir. I am afraid of nothing.
This is how it all happened. First, sir, you must know that in the
morning I go to Batignolles to sell cabbages, leeks, carrots, &c. . .
a poor living I get out of it, too. Well, the other day, towards
nine o'clock in the morning, this rascal, who is now in the dock,
IN THE CORRECTIONAL COURT.
came sidling round my market cart with a comical look in his eye.
At first I never thought that he wanted to rob me ; on the contrary,
there was a business-like air about him.
THE PRESIDENT. But come to the point. Never mind his
business-like manner. Let us hear how he tried to rob you. How
did the prisoner at the bar steal your goods ?
THE WITNESS. I am just come to that, sir; but you must
first of all let me explain.
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT
begging, a dirty-looking man of
The president, in despair at her prolixity, after a few more
attempts to bring her to the point, sends the witness back to her
place, and reads out the declaration she made to the commissary of
police. The public meanwhile receive with peals of laughter the
unhappy huckstress, who is heart-broken at not having been able
to tell her story.
Other prisoners now come up for trial. Most of them are
professional beggars, idle scamps, to whom begging is a regular
trade, by which they earn, on an average, from six to ten francs a
day ; i.e. more than is earned by many artisans and workmen with
a family to maintain.
All these people are soon disposed of. A few answers, however,
One of those charged with
forty, who shams blindness,
energetically denies that he
asked alms of the passers by.
THE PRESIDENT. But you
were caught holding your hand
out to a lady.
THE PRISONER. It was
because I thought I felt a feu-
drops of water, and I was
stretching out my hand to see if
To another the president
says, " The policeman caught
you holding out your cap to
a lady. POCHARDS.
THE PRISONER. It was a
lady from whom I asked the way ; so, naturally, I took off my hat
out of politeness.
The judges are hard on these regular delinquents. But they
show a little more indulgence to prisoners with no previous convic-
tions against them, and there are plenty of these. A man once
turned up who did not know what this meant.
THE PRESIDENT. Have you any antecedents ?
THE PRISONER. No, sir ; I have only a sister.
The most remarkable thing at the Correctional Court is the
absence of any moral sense in so many of the prisoners and
156 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
witnesses. This is specially shown in cases in which adulterous
women and kept mistresses are concerned. Many in this world of
ours are blind, and many are deaf, but they are far inferior in
number to the people who are incapable of appreciating the habits
of civilised life. Zola has represented Coupeau as inviting his
wife's old lover to his house. The Correctional Court shows us
many happy homes of this kind, and far more lively and amusing
ones than that of the three heroes of L'Assommoir.
Here is a case in point,
THE PRESIDENT (after Jiaving set forth the whole case against
the prisoner). What have you to say in answer to this ?
THE PRISONER. Simply that my wife is a b .
THE PRESIDENT. What has this to do with the case ?
THE PRISONER. Everything, Mr. President. This gentle-
man, who complains that I landed
him one, has been making love to my
wife, whenever I was away.
THE COMPLAINANT. The pri-
soner's wife used to be my wife, so I
was only renewing old acquaintance.
THE PRESIDENT (to the pri-
ACCOMPLICES soner). Your wife used to be the
By P. Renouard.
complainant's wife ?
THE PRISONER. Yes, but she has been divorced from him,
and married to me ; so she is my wife now.
THE PRESIDENT. And you actually receive into your home
your wife's divorced husband ?
THE PRISONER. It is he who arranged the marriage. " Look
here," says he, " you want a wife ; I've the very thing that will suit
you, a regular beauty, as you shall see ; and I know what I'm say-
ing, because I've been married to her myself." So I married her,
as she was warranted good by the gentleman, who was my best
man at the wedding.
THE COMPLAINANT. Well, I told you she was a beauty ; is
THE PRISONER. Yes, but she is a beast for all that.
The lady who has been wife to both these friends is con-
demned to pay a heavy fine. After which the comic sitting
comes to an end.
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT 157
THE SAD SIDE OF THE COURT
The comic sitting is over, but here comes our second guide, who
will take us to another Chamber, where we shall see the Correctional
Court under its distressing aspects.
The burlesque characters are gone, and we shall now have before
us the lepers of society in all their foulness. Let us take note of
the creatures as they pass by, and we shall have no lack of food
To-day it is a body of young men whom the guards are bring-
ing in. They are sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen years old, not
more. Unlike to one another in face and figure, they have two
traits in common : a pale, livid complexion, as if it had been
washed in dirty water ; and thin lips without colour, like razor
blades. Morally, they are all of the same stamp ;
they live on the earnings of their mistress, a
wretched girl who tramps the outer boulevards ;
and when her infamy fails to support them, they
go and steal.
They are now called upon to answer for various
thefts. They avow them without the least com-
punction, nay, with effrontery. They have never
w r orked. All labour, all discipline, all rule is hateful to them.
" Left at an early age to live by my wits," wrote one of this set
in a memoir which the director of the Mazas Prison asked for, "it
ought not to be a matter of surprise if I do not like work. I have
given way to my father's worst weakness, absinthe drinking. When
I had money, I always drank two or three tumblers of it every day.
Hating work, to seek it was the last thing that could have occurred
to me. The worse my clothes and the bigger blackguards my
friends, the prouder I felt."
The offspring of morally diseased parents, and brought up
amidst bad surroundings, they have nothing but scorn for virtue,
for the law, for society itself. Knowing nothing but their appetites,
they make it their aim to satisfy these at any cost. Provided they
can escape the clutches of the police, they care for little else.
Incapable of remorse, they sleep soundly every night, whatever
crimes they may happen to have committed during the day.
A doctor would call them men whose moral sense is blinded.
i S 8
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
While the president of the Court is examining them, they
exchange signs of intelligence with comrades in the body of the
hall. The Court condemns them. They go out with a shrug of the
shoulders. Prison life will complete their ruin, and in three or
four years we shall meet them again at the assizes.
The brain of these precocious wretches is already in a confused
sort of way a home for thoughts of assassination.
M. Joly has said of them, " they are in a permanent state
of readiness to commit a murder for a word, for a fancy, for a
They will sometimes do it to satisfy a pure wild beast curiosity.
As an instance of this take the conversation overheard by Dr. Lau-
rent at the Prison de la
Sante between a vagabond
and a youth under twenty,
who had tried to strangle
" Look here," asked the
first, " you might as well
tell me why you wanted
to strangle the old man."
" 1 don't know."
" Did you want to get
at his savings ? "
" I've told you he
hadn't a farthing in the
"Then what did you
want to screw his gizzard
for ? "
" Well,/#j/ to see wJiat
sort of a face he'd make"
Allorto, Sellier, Cate-
lin, Ribot were well known at the Correctional Court. Kaps had
just left gaol when he murdered the old man Vincard.
But let us return to Court.
Another set of thieves, still younger, is now occupying the
The first, eleven years old, Francois D , with a sweet ex-
pression, large wondering eyes, very small for his age, has taken a
pair of cheap shoes from a stall in the Temple market.
Member of the Society for the Protection of Children.
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT 159
His father and mother are dead. An aunt had taken him to
her home ; but, being old, infirm, and earning very little, she could
only give him a bit of bread every day. She cannot trouble about
his clothes or shoes. He had to go about bare-foot in the
" Why did you steal these shoes ?" asks the president.
" To wear them, sir," answers he, in a child's clear tones ; " I saw
them, I stooped down, took them, and ran away."
" But you know very well that it is wicked to steal."
" Yes, sir," murmurs the child blushing, and he adds a remark,
the import of which is deep for those who care to understand
" But I did not think of it, at the moment."
Luckily, a member of the Society for the Protection of Children 1
is present. He comes forward to the bar, and asks that the child
be entrusted to him, a request readily granted. In old days a
judge would have had no option but to send the child to gaol.
The next, who is fourteen and a half, Jules C- , with a bad
expression, has stolen a box of sardines and a bottle of liqueur
from a grocer's shop in the Rue Saint-Honore.
This is his third appearance before the judges for similar acts
of larceny. The son of honest working people whose hearts he
is breaking, he refuses to stay in any situation they get for him,
and insists on running about the streets in company with other
scamps of his own age.
When the case is called on, a man of forty, well-built, with a
frank and energetic expression, goes into the witness-box.
"You are the prisoner's father?" asks the president.
"Yes, sir," answers the witness, ashamed and looking down.
" Sir," he goes on, in a tone he tries to make harsh, though in spite
of his anger a strain of deep grief runs through it, " I have already
taken him back twice ; I can do nothing with him ; he won't
work. . . . This time I will not take him back ; send him to
While he is speaking, his son's features relax ; they lose their
bad expression ; there comes over them a look of the deepest
" Father ! father ! " he cries in accents of despair, " I promise to-
1 La Societe protcclrice de Fenfance.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
" No ! I have done with you."
" Father ! " stammers the child, his whole frame shaking with
But the man's voice grows weaker. His last " No " is scarcely
heard. He is silent for two, for three seconds. At last, giving way,
he murmurs :
" Well, then, I will take you back again, but it will be for the
And he quickly passes his sleeve before his eyes, whilst the
women seated in the Court shed tears
After an interval, the scene changes.
Gentlemen of a high rank now come
before the Court. Faultless in
dress, in manner and in speech,
but a little time ago they passed
everywhere as perfect gentlemen.
Somewhere behind the Stock
Exchange they had opened a
bank which offered enormous
dividends. Money flowed into
their coffers. Clerks, cooks, do-
mestic servants, officers on half
pay, flocked to their counters. All
were graciously received. No
sum was too small for accept-
ance. One morning, the game
being up, they levanted, and the police commissary on being
summoned to the place only found in their safe the sum of
forty-eight sous in copper.
In the end they are brought back from the frontier between two
To the president's questions they answer politely. Not a word
is out of tune. They talk figures in long, calm phrases. They
explain their carriages, their mistresses, their sumptuous dinners,
their magnificent style of living by " the necessities of their position."
Their victims have been stripped to the very bone ; yet some of
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT
them who appear at the bar as witnesses such is the stupidity of
mankind nod their heads approvingly, and retain confidence in
These gentlemen are condemned to two or three years of prison.
In less than six months they will be pardoned, and swagger along
the boulevards, saluting the world in general with a flourish
of their hats, silk hats, quite new and of the latest
To the swindlers succeed some portly middle-
aged women, horrible to look upon with their rolls
of flesh, their painted cheeks, their oily hands.
Keepers of infamous brasseries, they are accused
of procuring girls under the age for purposes of
debauchery. And ten or twelve girls of sixteen or
seventeen, scarcely developed, but already steeped
in vice, come forward, all of them telling the same
tale, quite carelessly, without shame, without grief,
like passive instruments of pleasure.
The wretched creatures give details. From their young lips
the filthiest words come quite naturally. Among the audience a
few law students burst out laughing, but thinking men shudder.
As for the girls, they do not trouble themselves about it, and go
on with their story almost unconsciously.
Another change mothers who have tor-
tured their children. One has exposed a
little boy of five under a spout of ice-cold
water, yelling out to him, as he shivered, " You
shiver; die then!" Another has burned her
little girl's limbs with a red-hot iron. Another
has hung up her child by the wrists till, under
the frightful suffering, the quivering flesh turned
One after another, when the president
reproaches them with their cruelty, remarks drily :
" I only used my right of correction " !
They are indignant because the Court inflicts a penalty upon
them. They do not understand. These human females make one
think of certain female animals who devour their own offspring the
moment they are born.
Then come convicts who have broken their ticket of leave.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The majority of them could not tell the exact number of times they
have been apprehended for having returned to Paris in spite of the
decree which forbids them to enter it. The list is too long ; one has
been arrested ten times, another fifteen, another twenty or more.
Listen to this stereotyped dialogue.
THE PRESIDENT. Your name is Louis
Chaussin ; you are thirty-four years old ; Paris is
prohibited to you ; yet you have re-entered it ?
THE PRISONER. Yes ; but what would you
have me do ? Can a man in my position live in the
provinces ? An employer, knowing nothing about
you, gives you a good post. In three or four days
he finds out who you are, and off you go ; he
kicks you out of the house. Look here ; I was once a soldier.
While out on leave I stole 42 francs ; it was my first offence. 1 got
five years' imprisonment and prohibition to come to Paris for ten
years. The imprisonment I don't care about, though five years
for 42 francs is rather stiff; but the prohibition to enter Paris. . . I
THE PRESIDENT. Besides your first sentence
of imprisonment you have had six others ?
THE PRISONER. For breaking my ticket of
leave as now, but not anything else. It is always
the same story. I come to a town, I can't find
work, it is only at Paris that I could find it because
here people don't ask you about your antecedents.
What would you have me do ?
Does not this man speak the truth ? Never-
theless the Court sentences him to a month's imprisonment. It
is the law.
Then several ladies appear, fashionably dressed, but ashamed
and trembling. An inspector from the Magasin du Louvre tells
how he surprised them in the act of slipping into their pockets
either bottles of smelling salts, lace, or embroidered handkerchiefs.
They shed tears, deny nothing, stammer a few indistinct words:
they saw these articles before their eyes within their reach
the temptation came upon them with an irresistible force
they yielded to it they do not know how it was. . .
While the> speak their limbs shake, their faces grow pale as
death. One of them, twenty-four years old, only just married, on
hearing the president pronounce the words " Three months," sinks
THE CORRECTIONAL COURT
in a heap on the floor, seized with convulsions so violent that four
guards, with all their united efforts, can scarcely carry her away.
By the door, which has been left open, may be heard this
piercing cry, which she utters without ceasing : " No ! no ! I will
not go to prison; I will die first!" She
grows delirious, and in her frenzy seems to
see the portals of Saint-Lazare prison open-
ing before her.
The doctor attached to the law courts
on being summoned reports the case as
one of " hysterical epilepsy." Her mother
and husband pass her in the corridor ; the
one in tears, the other stunned, with livid
In the Court opposite persons caught
fiagrante delicto come up for judgment.
Between noon and five o'clock the Court passes sentence on a
herd of 108 wretches arrested by the police the preceding
night, some in one place, some in another ; in the Bois de
Boulogne, in the Bois de Vincennes, under the bridges, in
the trenches below the ramparts, on the benches that line the
boulevards, among the rubbish of houses in
process of demolition. The rabble comprises
men and women of all ages. Old men with
white hair and bent backs ; decrepit old
women with toothless and receding mouths.
Male and female companions of about forty :
beardless youths ; girls in their teens. For
garments they have nothing but a few shape-
less rags probably alive with vermin ; patched
up peticoats, torn vests, pantaloons made up
out of twenty different pieces, old coats full
of holes. Young, middle-aged or tottering
on the verge of the grave, in the full light
shed on them by the lofty windows, they offer
to the spectators a succession of cadaverous
faces, emaciated features, hopeless eyes. They are beings without
hearth or home. Like street dogs, they sleep where they find
themselves and eat when they can. Society calls them vagabonds
and declares them guilty of misery.
By P. Renouard.
164 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Arrested pell-mell, they are brought into the dock in batches
of ten, taken at random. The registrar puts down their names,
the president sentences them, and they disappear.
No advocate has appeared in their defence ; the president has
listened absently to their answers, his colleagues thought of other
things as they signified their assent 1 while condemnations some-
what at random were rained down upon them. The public
prosecutor has spent the time in drawing pictures of flowery arbours
on his blotting-pad, or in preparing a charge for some ensuing case
which has excited great interest in the public press. Once or
twice the president has asked him if he has any comments to offer.
But he has merely half raised himself from his chair, and bowed
without saying a word a pantomime, which means " I am in
agreement with the Court."
In this way the judge, who has a host of charges to hear in a single
day, hurries through the roll of crime and misery. He knows well
that he is sometimes mistaken, that several of those before him
are condemned unjustly. But he soothes his conscience with the
reflection : " Never mind ! those who are innocent will be sure to
Few of those who come before the Court, however, avail them-
selves of this resource. Old offenders, who are sentenced to a
short term of imprisonment and would not be able to find bail,
think, in fact, with terror of the long weeks they would have to
wait possibly without any result before their trial in the Court
of Appeal. So those who can get bail and persons with an
unstained record are the only ones who care to risk a " return visit "
to Court, as the prison phrase is.
Let us follow them to the other end of the Palace of Justice,
where stands the Court of Criminal Appeal.
1 The French is " en opinant du bonnet" When the presiding judge delivers
judgment, the puisne judges raise their caps (bonnets) in token of assent.
THE justice of jurymen and the justice of lawyers differ from
one another in theory and in practice. But these two varieties
have their homes side by side in two courts, which occupy the part
of the Palace of Justice overlooking the Place Dauphine. A
narrow corridor forms the only separation between them.
The Chamber of Correctional Appeals is spacious, chilly, and
filled with rows of benches. In its complete absence of decoration
and its dull gray ceiling, it reminds the spectator of a Protestant
meeting-house. The law would seem to reign within these walls
in all its rigour. And yet the atmosphere of the Court has, on the
moment of entry, nothing to cause disquiet.
A visitor feels himself in the Chamber of Justice, it might be
said of justice in repose. The faces of the judges are stamped
with an expression of haughty unconcern. There is in them no
trace of the passion which so readily enlivens the features of
some judges of first instance while they are engaged upon a
trial. In the Appeal Court, not only do the judges hear the case
at a greater distance from the events which give rise to it, but
also without the presence of the witnesses, whose depositions, now
committed to writing, have lost in the registrar's notes all power
of exciting emotion. The prisoner, who is still bewildered by the
expeditious and sometimes brutal style in which his trial was
conducted at the former hearing, begins to dream of an acquittal
when he contemplates the comforting solemnity which pervades
the Court, and above all its punctilious observance of legal
formalities. The poor man, surprised at the scrupulous attitude
of his new judges, anxiously drinks in with eyes and ears every
detail of the scene in which he figures.
It is his case they are trying, and yet he has scarcely any part
in its discussion. The president, in a tone courteous in its form-
1 66 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
ality, asks him a few brief questions respecting his antecedents.
Then he adds politely, turning to one of his colleagues, " The
reporting counsellor will now make his statement.'' A sharp voice,
rising from somewhere among the seven counsellors, at once
recapitulates the different phases of the case, and sets forth
minutely the proceedings, the arguments, and the judgment in the
Court below. This report is completely devoid of any literary
graces ; it is merely a formal statement stuffed full of facts, and
bearing the stamp of real impartiality. No personal observation
finds its way into it.
From the commencement of the reporting counsellor's address,
the prisoner's whole thoughts have been concentrated on the task
of finding out whence comes the hard voice which strike his ears.
His eyes range up and down the line of seven judges, seated on
his left, round a table in the shape of a horse-shoe, with a green
cloth, loaded with papers and bulky legal tomes. He examines
them one after another, in their carelessly varied attitudes, all
engaged, not in listening, but in reading or writing. The lips of
one of the judges move, and his hands change their position from
the necessity of selecting papers from the heap before him ; by
these signs the accused distinguishes the reporting counsellor.
From that moment he never takes his looks off him ; his ears are
as it were closed, and all his powers of attention are concentrated
in his eyes.
At the end of ten or twenty minutes the reporting counsellor's
voice comes to a full stop. The president, recalled from the extra-
judicial occupation on which he was engaged, raises his head, and
says in a cold tone :
" Prisoner at the bar, stand up."
The examination of the prisoner now takes place ; a summary
proceeding in which the president, without a shadow of acrimony,
in the style, as one might say, of Suetonius, quietly runs
through the chief counts of the indictment, and asks the prisoner
what he has to say in answer. The counsellors then for the first
time turn their eyes towards the accused ; they listen to some of
his explanations, and, like men whose scruples are readily satisfied,
they return to the tasks they had for a moment interrupted. The
president then says " Counsel for the defence." Thereupon the
advocate of the accused begins a long address. After a second
statement of the case, a statement made from his own point of
view, he goes carefully to work to break down each of the grounds
stated in the judgment against his client ; and contends, both for
reasons of fact and for reasons of law, that the decision of the
Court below should be annulled or at any rate modified. Then
when at last the confirmation of the sentence appealed against
begins to look in danger,the Advocate-
General, in his turn, offers a few brief
observations. In his conclusions, as
they are called, he does his best to
demolish the arguments for the de-
fence, and to show with a logical
power equal to his opponent's that
the Tribunal of Correctional Police
has made a correct application of
the law. Sometimes, but only in
very exceptional cases, the repre-
sentative of the Public Ministry asks
the Court of Appeal to increase the
sentence. In legal language, this is
called an appeal a minima.
During this oratorical duel, of
which he knows well he will be the
only victim, the accused keeps changing his attitude mechani-
cally. For the first-half hour he follows the arguments of his
counsel ; his expression is animated, and he looks fondly on the
speaker with admiring eyes. But, little by little, his attention
flags ; it ends by becoming completely wrecked in this sea of legal
quibbles. His blinking looks now wander from one side to the
other, turning always principally on the row of counsellors. Should
one of them at any time raise his head, and seem to listen to a
passage of the speech for the defence, the unhappy man makes
desperate efforts to read on his countenance the impression made
by the words. And his heart sinks when he sees the judge after
this fit of distraction return to his interrupted task.
Growing anxious, he looks round for a friendly face, and with
this object he explores every corner and recess of the hall of
justice. But nowhere does he find what he is in search of. The
registrar and usher have their regular expression of professional
apathy. Seated in front of him, before long tables in tiers, where
the juries of the Seine Assize Court sometimes sit when there
is a double Assize Session, the members of the bar, with wearied
air, wait for their cases to come on. They have no eyes for any-
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
thing except the clock, which, with mechanical movements of the
head, they consult every five minutes. The audience and the
policemen with their set faces are too far off for him to make
a guess at their sentiments. Affrighted by
this absence of sympathy, oppressed by the
isolation in which he finds himself, he re-
turns as a last resource to watching his own
counsel. The latter, having
finished his speech, is now
relaxing his mind by drawing
a caricature of the Advocate-
General on a corner of his
brief. The accused feels him-
self gradually yielding to the
atmosphere of indifference
which surrounds him. Rather
than pay attention to the con-
temptuous address of the Ad-
vocate-General, he examines
abstractedly the architecture
of the Court, stares at the
ceiling, then, turning his head,
gazes with attention at the
bust of the Republic, below
which is inscribed in golden letters this couplet in post-classical
" Hie poena: scelerum ultrices posuere tribunal,
Sontibus uncle tremor, civibus unde salus."
But the president's voice is heard once more saying : " The Court
will now deliberate. . . ."
The judges rise heavily from their seats ; and after a few
moments' discussion in a circle behind the president's chair, they
file out in line to the Council Chamber. This means that some
question of law has cropped up. Had it not been for this, judg-
ment would have been immediately delivered on the spot. The
accused catches at every straw. Is this solemn deliberation in
his favour ? Alas, no. The Court of Appeal rarely withdraws
to the Council Chamber except to patch up a somewhat hasty
judgment delivered by the Court of First Instance ; a judgment
which, excellent so far. as the condemnation goes, has some trifling
defect of form, which could not bear the scrutiny of the Supreme
CRIMINAL APPEALS 169
Court. The spirit of jurisprudence, always stirring in the breasts
of the counsellors, gives itself full play. The decision appealed
from receives the touch of juridical varnish needed to make it
perfect. Vying with one another, they display their skill in sup-
porting it by the most subtle arguments. With a marvellous refine-
ment of logic, the legal text referred to in the original charge is
made to include the case against the prisoner. There is not even
a semblance of opposition.
Accompanied by the six smiling counsellors, the president,
with the documents of the case under his arm, makes a triumphant
return into Court. With lively notes of joy in his voice, he reads
the decree, setting forth that, though the grounds given for the
original judgment are invalid, the operative part must nevertheless
The condemned man listens with stupefied air as the hopes he
had built up on the solemn judicial debates in which he was not
badly treated are dashed to the ground. Are we to gather from
this that the Chamber of Correctional Appeals, irreverently de-
signated by Henri Rochefort the " Chamber of Bishops," always
confirms the judgments of the Court below ? Not so. It has
given celebrated decisions in which it has manifested its high
judicial tone, and has proved both its independence and its disdain
for the verdicts of the multitude. To it in fact was due the
acquittal of M.Wilson, who, during the arguments in his case, while
nervously stroking a long russet beard, kept a confident gaze on the
Latin couplet inscribed under the bust of the Republic ; a couplet
in which the pentameter
" Sontibus unde tremor, civibus unde salus"
seemed to stand out with an unusual brightness.
THE CHAMBER OF INDICTMENTS
BEFORE proceeding to the Court of Assize, the great stage on
which the chief criminal dramas run their course, we must make a
little detour, and, under the guidance of some Asmodeus, try and
visit the sealed Chamber of Indictments, the ante-chamber where
for several weeks the most important criminal cases sent for trial
undergo a preliminary preparation. After having mounted the steps
of the grand staircase, the visitor will hear the first hum of counsel
and litigants in the robing-room corridor. Here he will find a little
low door. It leads by a dark stairway to a series of gloomy
apartments, on the level of the ground, with no other horizon but
the walls of the Sainte-Chapelle. It is here that the Chamber of
Indictments still holds its sittings. Very soon it will migrate with
the Court of Appeal into new buildings, which will be lofty and
well lighted. And yet this old-fashioned accommodation forms a
very suitable frame for the Chamber which labours within closed
doors at the work of despatching defendants to take their trial
before the Assize Court. At the foot of the little staircase is a
room occupied by the registrar, M. Horoch, whose courteous ad-
dress forms a singular contrast to the surrounding gloom. Then
comes the judges' robing-room. It opens on to an apartment
quite soberly furnished, where the substitutes come for a chat,
while waiting their turn to go to the Council Chamber to explain
the cases entrusted to them. This Council Chamber is a fairly
large apartment, with a decayed look about it. In the middle is
an oval table with a green cloth, round which are set seven arm-
THE CHAMBER OF INDICTMENTS
chairs for the counsellors, and the chair of the substitute. Were it
not for a respectable row of stout volumes ranged in a sliding book-
stand, one would say may Themis pardon the blasphemy that
it was a table devoted to secret games of baccarat !
Round this table the six counsellors and their president meet
twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. But though badly housed
they do not scamp their work. On the one hand they have to
decide appeals brought from decisions of the judges of instruction
relative to applica-
tions for bail. On
the other, they have
to settle, in the case
of all persons ac-
cused of felony,
whether they are to
be sent for trial be-
fore the Court of
Assize, or whether
they are entitled to
the benefit of a find-
ing of " no true
bill." In this latter
task they are en-
lightened by the
who come, in turn,
to deliver their re-
ports on all criminal
cases before the
Court. The coun-
and one of them is
selected by the president to draw up their decision. This labour,
portioned out among six counsellors, is no light one for each
counsellor, since in the course of the year the Chamber delivers,
under this head alone, from six to eight hundred judgments. But
this is not all. The new Code of Criminal Instruction has operated
with peculiar cruelty towards these magistrates by imposing on
them the duty of pronouncing rehabilitations. From this time
forward every person punished for a criminal offence can, at the
1/2 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
end of three full years, have the record of his sentence struck
out if he proves to have been of good behaviour during that
period. This enactment was the first sign of a social movement
to which we owe the recent Berenger law. Before it took place,
the number of rehabilitations per annum did not exceed seventy.
Now they amount to more than eight hundred. But progress
continues its work, day by day, even in the Palace of Justice.
A new habitation has been prepared for the Chamber of Indict-
ments. At present it is occupied by the juries appointed to assess
compensation for disturbance. For once, the civil law takes
precedence of the criminal.
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY
IN every canton of France an annual assembly, composed of
mayors, justices of peace, and municipal councillors, selects a
number of citizens of good repute for character and conduct to act
as those judges of fact in important criminal cases who are styled
"gentlemen of the jury." The names chosen are forwarded to the
judicial authority, and a fresh selection is then made out of them
by a commission which meets in the chief town of the department.
The persons selected by this latter body form the general jury list ;
and from this general list are drawn by lot once a quarter in the
provinces and once a fortnight in Paris the names of those who
are actually to serve on the juries at criminal sessions. The number
required is thirty-six acting and four supplementary jurymen. All
men over thirty years of age are bound by law to serve on juries.
Nobody unless he is over seventy can refuse to take his part in the
administration of justice, under a penalty of five hundred francs.
All citizens thus enjoy the honour, though all do not equally appre-
ciate it. A juryman receives a ridiculously inadequate allowance
for travelling expenses ; for his loss of time while engaged he re-
ceives no compensation at all. His business suffers from his ab-
sence, and his wife, during her husband's temporary administra-
tion of justice, does not always remain the model wife, content to
stay at home and knit stockings. It is true that for the retired
captain, living on his half-pay amidst the dulness of provincial
towns, there is nothing irksome in this little trip to town. The
veteran fastens a broad piece of ribbon to his buttonhole, brushes
up his Sunday hat with vigorous elbow, and takes out the venerable
174 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
frock coat which lies sleeping on a bed of pepper and camphor at
the bottom of his chest of drawers ; then, with waistband tightly
buckled, clothes smartly arranged, and a suspicion of dye about
the grizzled tips of his moustache, he alights at the Hotel de France,
determined to save society from danger and to show his contempt
for droning counsel.
But it is very different with Jean Mathurin Besnard, the
metayer. 1 When one evening in harvest he sees the parish
constable arrive with a peremptory summons requiring him to
serve on a jury, he knocks the ashes out of his pipe against his
boot heel furiously, and, pointing in despair to the standing crops,
curses the judicial system, the government, and the taxes; asks
whether there are not shopkeepers enough in the town to make a
jury without tearing him away from his land, the land he loves, the
land he could clasp passionately in his arms like a sweetheart; and,
bending down hastily to his interrupted task, he finishes in the dusk
the work of a day which has gone only too fast.
See them all assembled in the hall of the Assize Court, the
members of the jury. The sessions are about to begin. Unknown
for the most part to each other, they watch one another closely, and
insensibly fall into groups round those of their number who have
decorations. There they are, all of them men of respectability
come together to try the pariahs; the flourishing notary, with eye-
glass and flowing whiskers, who knows his way about the place,
and is looking out for some barrister of his acquaintance to get
him excused on account of his profession ; the elderly man of
independent means, stern, silent, and self-conscious ; then some
Bohemian artist, with luxuriant hair and loose neckcloth, who will
be too easily attracted by the improbable and the romantic to make
a good juryman. . . . And, farther down, keeping modestly in the
background, will be seen, on this judicial stage where a bourgeois*
fate is sometimes decided, a notable member of the fourth estate in
the person of some foreman, grave, attentive, almost contemplative ;
one who, in the uprightness of his intentions, would make a model
judge were not his head stuffed with newspaper articles.
They are worthy men, all of them. . . . Individual failings,
corrupt bargains, violent decisions are not to be dreaded when a
1 A farmer wilh fixity of tenure, who divides the profits of the land equally with the
landlord. The metayer system in France an 1 Italy has been described by many writers
from Arthur Young to John Stuart Mill.
THE COURT OF ASSIZE 1/5
man is not sole judge. With his eleven companions by his side, a
juryman will make it a point of conscience to appear upright,,
scrupulous, and disinterested ; and it may be stated as a fact that,
from the moral point of view, the collective is higher than the
individual standard. On that point all thinkers are agreed. Worthy
men, I repeat it, are these gentlemen of the jury. But with such a
want of experience and decision ! No ! It is far from easy for a
man to isolate himself so as to become absolutely impartial. Every
opinion of a juryman is in its essence subjective. He will never
condemn or acquit a prisoner on considerations of the public good,
but solely for some reason drawn from his own experience. A man's
guilt will make a greater or smaller impression upon him in pro-
portion as he himself runs the risk of being a sufferer from the
crime in question. It is a notorious fact that before a country jury
girls guilty of infanticide are generally acquitted. A natural child f
What would have become of the little creature ? It would have been
necessary to bring it up at the expense of the parish ; and when it
reached the age of fifteen it would have taken to burning hayricks?
As to the man accused of arson, he knows what to expect. The
peasant-farmer, exposed without protection to fire, will show him
neither leniency nor mercy.
It is the same with indecent assaults on children ; for villagers*
children often remain by themselves at the farm while the father
and mother are working in the fields. The coiner has no more pity
to expect. A countryman will, as cases show, send a man to the
galleys for passing a counterfeit half-franc. The severity of a
Versailles jury has become traditional. Composed of market-
gardeners, half-pay officers, and retired clerks, living in suburban
cottages which are open day and night to the depredations of the
Parisian scum, they punish without pity any malefactor hailing
from the great city; the verdict asked for by the prosecution is
always found, and sometimes a good deal more. A good instance
of this happened a few years ago in the case of three young
scoundrels who came from Paris to murder an old woman who
kept a small inn at Argenteuil ; the public prosecutor only asked
for one head ; the Versailles jury gave him all the three.
The Parisian jury is quite otherwise composed and more difficult
to analyse. It will not give a caste verdict, because in Paris the
various castes run into one another too much. But it is at the
mercy of a good speaker. This will not be the counsel, who is
rarely listened to, nor even the Advocate-General, whom the fault-
finding Parisian condemns because he represents authority. No;
it is from among their own body that the jury will choose this real
leader, some reasoner with an abundant and easy flow of language ;
a man with a talent for seeing into millstones and round corners,
who is the more dangerous to the good sense of his colleagues
as he is more skilful in playing with paradoxes.
A Parisian jury is moreover under the spell of two mistresses :
fashion and sensation.
During several years the appearance in the dock of heroines of
the revolver and the vitriol flask was a mere matter of form. It
had become a tradition to acquit in cases of crime caused by passion.
The Ministry of Justice was compelled to take steps to do with-
out a jury in the majority of these cases by a change in procedure ;
that is to say, ladies accused of causing wounds or injuries with
vitriol were sent before a trusty " ninth Chamber," which did not
neglect its duty.
Treated thus as an inferior jurisdiction and incapable of judg-
ing in certain cases, juries were put on their good behaviour. At
the present day they return fairly reasonable verdicts in cases in
which love has played a part. None the less, in these delicate
matters, a Parisian jury remains a big baby which must be kept in
leading strings and carefully looked after.
We were speaking just now of sensation. A Parisian jury is
easily moved by the notoriety or celebrity attached to a case.
Suppose there are two wretches who have committed similar
crimes. If the first is lucky enough to have done the deed in the
middle of a Ministerial crisis, on the day when the Grand Prize is
run for, or during the annual demonstration on May Day; if, in one
word, there was any chance of the murder passing unnoticed, the
jury will be complaisant, and the culprit will easily obtain the
benefit of extenuating circumstances. If on the other hand the
crime has caused excitement, if the press has taken it up, if the
newspapers have published portraits of the victims accompanied
by appalling descriptions, the prisoner is certain to be condemned
to death. Billoir, who deserved six months in gaol for having
given an unlucky kick to his old mistress in the middle of a
drunken quarrel, was condemned to death because the dismember-
ment of the body had excited universal horror; and, to crown all,
Marshal MacMahon left him to the guillotine " on account of his
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
excellent antecedents," that is, because he was an ex-soldier and
had dishonoured the army.
Our good jurymen are now met in the Assize Court, feeling
rather out of their element in the midst of judicial parade. The
usher reads out the general list of names ; excuses are made
on behalf of some because of illness, or because they must live by
daily labour. A few others are sent about their business because,
at the last moment, it is found that they have at some, time been
convicted of a penal offence ; so carelessly are the lists drawn
up. Occasionally a man who refuses to serve has to pay into the
treasury or rather out of Jiis treasury a fine of 500 francs, and
his name is put back into the urn for next sessions. At last the
non-effectives being got rid of, and the panel made up by the
addition of supplementary jurymen, the jury for the sessions is
1/8 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The president of the Court of Assize 1 then has the accused
brought into the Council Chamber, whither he himself goes,
followed by the thirty-six jurymen, and accompanied by the
advocate-general and the counsel for the defence. " Prisoner,"
says he, "these gentlemen have been summoned to try you. I
am going to put their thirty-six names in the urn ; you have the
right to challenge any twelve of them ; the Public Prosecutor has a
right to challenge an equal number. As soon as the names of
twelve unchallenged jurymen shall have been drawn out of the
urn the jury will be constituted." Then, pulling up the right
sleeve of his scarlet robe, the president shakes the urn containing
the ballots on which the names of the jurymen are inscribed, and
calls them out, as they appear, in a loud voice.
" Present ! " answers the juryman.
" Challenged ! " thunders the advocate-general or yelps the
Except the cunning rogues who get themselves challenged so
as to escape serving, when they have the means of arranging
matters, a juryman who has this " Begone " flung full in his face
reddens violently; his eyes roll round like loto balls, and he opens
his mouth as if for a protest which is stopped on his lips by the
awe he feels for the majesty of justice. After all, there is nothing
discreditable in being challenged. Although neither the Public
Prosecutor nor the advocates engaged are accountable to any
one for their challenge, it is always easy to guess its motives.
The advocates for the defence will challenge a married juryman
in a case connected with morality ; in a case of embezzlement by
a clerk, he will challenge employers of labour ; in a case of infanti-
cide, young fathers of families.
In some cases, in political trials for example, and on occasions
when the selection of the jury is made in public, as is usual in
certain provincial courts, the right of challenge assumes a vital
importance ; then the advocate-general and the counsel for
the defence watch one another out of the corners of their eyes.
They wait ! . . . . Neither party being able to make more than a
certain number of challenges, they each hope that the opposite
side, acting on false information, may unwittingly deliver them from-
1 I.e. the presiding judge. Criminal cases at the Court of Assize are heard by three-
judges sitting together.
THE COURT OF ASSIZE 179
an enemy. There begins a curious duel, rich in comedy both as re-
gards the gestures and the attitudes of the combatants. The name
of a juryman suspected by both parties is drawn out of the urn :
nobody says a word ; the juryman, full of dignity, moves majes-
tically to his place ; he is just about to take his seat, he is already
sitting down, when, at the last moment, a sharp and sudden cry of
" Challenged ! " pulls him up on the very verge of his judicial
The juryman starts, takes up, with sullen air, the hat he had
just put down, and disappears, covered with confusion, in the mock-
ing crowd of his colleagues. People have no idea of the minute
investigations made by the prosecution and defence into " their "
jurymen ; the political opinions of the husband, the religious
profession of the wife, the family connections the police inquires
into everything as if it was a question of drawing up a report on
the physical and moral condition of a contumacious prisoner. As
a result, the Public Prosecutor and the counsel for the defence
arrive at an astonishing degree of information.
A few years ago there appeared before the Assize Court of
Corsica a young journalist belonging to the Bonapartist party,
named Antoine Leandri. He had taken to the bush l with a
little army of malcontents to protest against certain harassing
administrative regulations. He was brought before a Corsican
jury on a charge of stirring up civil war. The procureur-general
Moras and the counsel for the defence, Maitre de Montera >
engaged in a Homeric battle over the selection of the jury. Each
exercised his right of challenge with the most determined zeal.
When at length their right came to an end, both of them reckoned
up the jurymen who had survived the slaughter, and, after having
gone through the names, the procureur-general Moras bent to-
wards the counsel for the defence and remarked, with a smile,
" Your man is acquitted by ten votes to two." " So he is ! "
answered Maitre de Montera, after having verified the numbers in
his turn. And this is what actually happened, the trial making no
change, and the eloquence of the two speakers not turning a single
vote. Under the circumstances, the calculation was easy enough
as the question involved was purely political. But the selection
of the jury often demands a more subtle study of the human
Prendre le maqitis.
l8o THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Our readers may remember the case of Madame de Chicourt,
the Toulon beauty, who with her lover, M. Fouroux, mayor of that
town, appeared .before a jury of the department of the Var in
January, 1891, on a charge of procuring abortion. Those who
saw and heard her in Court, with her languid Creole speech, her
feline attitudes and her exquisite gracefulness, will never forget
this charming prisoner, whose guilt was so small and whose punish-
ment was so severe.
The bitterness of party disputes in the south of France is well
known, and around the name of M. Fouroux, her accomplice,
raged a terrific combat. As Fouroux was a radical, the Public
Prosecutor challenged all the radicals ; the advocate for the defence
retaliated by throwing out all the opportunists he possibly could.
In the end, the jury contained no man of any known character, but
consisted of twelve peasants of the mountains, ill-clothed, sour,
ruined by the vine disease, content to put up at the small inns of
the outskirts to save a little money. These men cared little about
the political opinions of the chief prisoner, but they were exasper-
ated by having to listen for three whole days to stories of trips to
Paris, perfumery, ladies' toilettes, and elegant suppers ; and they
convicted the graceful and coquettish beauty because, to their eyes,
she represented luxury, ease, and pleasure, an insult to their daily
" My child," said the grandmother of George Sand's Valentine,
" take a lover of your own rank ! "
" Prisoner at the bar," we should be disposed to say in our turn,
" get yourself tried by jurymen of your own class ! "
But we have found our way to the great hall of the Assize
Court. A bell announces the entry of the jurymen, and here
It is now time to give a rough sketch of this Court of Assize
for the department of the Seine, in which the fate of so many lives
comes up for decision.
At one end, on a dai's, stand the three judicial arm-chairs ;
the advocate-general is on the left, and the registrar x on the
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
right. Then, facing one another, are two long galleries, filled with
seats. On the side of the advocate-general, well placed both for
seeing and hearing, is a bench for the twelve jurymen ; it is pro-
longed so as to accommodate those jurymen who have not been
called upon to serve, but who want to be present at the proceedings
Below the jury-box stands a plain desk for the usher. Opposite
to this are two long enclosed spaces, the first for the prisoner, the
second for the reporters. They are separated from one another
by a movable partition, which allows the part reserved for the
press to be increased or diminished, according to the number of
prisoners in the dock. A strong light falls from the lofty win-
dows in front, striking the prisoner full in the face, while the jury
remain in the shade. Such is the rule observed in
the building of law courts. Below the dock are the
A CORNER OF THE REPORTERS' BENCH.
seats allotted to advocates, and, on the right, immediately beneath
the registrar's desk, are a little table and two chairs for the parties 1
to the prosecution, who, in accordance with tradition, are supposed
to come and implore justice at the feet of the Judge. Right in
front of the judicial dais is another table, long in shape, and scratched
all over with marks of nails. It is the table for articles produced
in evidence. 2 What countless vials of vitriol, revolvers and knives,
blood-stained garments, from satin dresses to workmen's blouses
and ladies' corsets, have been piled up in this Morgue for things
inanimate ! What a history of human crime and human passion a
collector of these articles could have written ! A few labels affixed
1 La partie civile.
2 Pieces a conviction.
1 82 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
to the objects in this ghastly museum, a date, a name recalled, this
would be enough and far more terrible than any lengthy narrative.
In front of the table for articles produced in evidence is the
bar, where the witness will come presently to raise his right hand
towards Bonnat's magnificent picture of Christ.
The Court have not yet entered, but the hall is already crowded.
A few intruders are turned out of the reporters' box ; in the middle
of the part railed off from the public, Leon, the apparitor of the
Order of Advocates, scrutinises the advocates' benches, and gently
ousts from them some profane person who will soon be brought
before the bdtonnier, and not dismissed without a severe repri-
mand for -illegally wearing the forensic gown. In the reserved
inclosure, despite a recent circular,, may be seen dainty costumes
and fashionable bonnets ; while tittering may be heard mingled
with exclamations and little cries uttered by women who are being
pinched. A little time ago was the heyday of reserved tickets ;
large numbers were distributed to gay ladies ; and certain Court
officials made great sums by selling them-
In those days the Court looked like a theatre ;
nothing was wanting, neither fans, opera-
glasses, applause, trembling at the pathetic
moment; and, during the adjournment I
had almost said the entr'acte the cham-
pagne corks popped gaily.
Meanwhile, standing up at the back
of the Court, packed one against the
AN HABITUE other, like sardines in a box, crushed and
(Sketch by p. Renouard.) flattened by the throng, may be seen the
people who take their pleasure cheaply, the
non-paying public ; an astonishing medley of colour, crumpled
neckcloths and small caps, faded dresses and old jackets of
which the original hues have quite disappeared. In the midst
of the crowd may be seen, like a white post, the spotless cap of
some confectioner's apprentice. The populace want their share
of the fun, and push their way in by main force. It is not cards
but blows that are exchanged between these impatient com-
petitors. By dint of steady shoving, a young telegraph clerk
has forced his way to the very front, and there he will remain,
delighted if gasping, for the rest of the day.
The crowd is sharply divided ; in the reserved seats, delicate
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
laces ; in the back, blue handkerchiefs; there, the scent of helio-
trope; here, the smell of sausage and garlic. But look at the faces
and attitudes. Everywhere there is the same expression of eager,
feverish curiosity, the same thirst for strong emotions, the same
passion for this drama of real life. In capital convictions, when
the president pronounces the word " death," the same thrill runs
through all veins alike, and the same exclamation of horror
escapes from every breast. The cry of awe-
struck terror, which the hear-
ing of a
death sentence calls
forth, may be heard uttered at the
same pitch, and in the same tone,
in the Court at Paris and in the Courts of little provincial towns
in Flanders as well as in Gascony. The human voice, that
marvellous instrument whose tones express the most minute dif-
ferences of feeling, has here no variability, whether it be the liquid
utterance of the Parisienne, the grating chuckle of the tatterde-
malion, or the harsh accents of the peasant.
But, hush, here comes the Court ! Every one cries " Sit down,"
and every one stands up to get a view ! Every eye is turned towards
the little door by which the prisoner enters between his two guards.
There are a few final expulsions from the reporters' box ; a lady,
who offers the press-men to remain there to cut their pencils, finds
no favour. A young barrister, with a military tuft, points out the
1 84 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
witnesses to a well-dressed friend. Behind, on the left, the caps
and flowing sleeves of probationers who have come late may be
seen perched on the benches and ranged in rows along a dark
passage ; some of them climb on to the stove or the window-sills,
and watch for the moment when a fellow-student who has come
in better time will leave a vacant place for them in the middle of
At last silence is obtained ; the hubbub, passing through the
whole descending gamut of sound, dwindles to a hum, and from a
hum to a whisper, and the president now slowly utters the sacra-
mental words, ' : The sitting is opened." A few questions are then
put to the prisoner : his surname, Christian names, age, profession ;
then the twelve jurymen rise, and each of them proceeds to take
the customary oath :
" You sivear and promise before God and man to examine with
the most scrupulous attention into the charges that will be brought
against N , not to betray the interests of the prisoner nor those of
society which accuses him ; not to communicate with any one till after
your verdict; to listen neither to hatred nor malice, fear nor affection,
to make your decision after duly weighing tJie charges and the
defence, according to your conscience and inmost conviction, with the
impartiality and firmness becoming to an honest man of independent
Each juryman raises his right hand and answers, " I swear
A few years ago there was a kind of fancy among jurymen
to refuse the oath because of the religious formula involved. Some
worthy men, who were very indifferent in matters of faith, suddenly
discovered conscientious scruples of which they had till then been
quite unaware. The oath stuck in their throat. Some veteran of
1848 had started this kind of protest against clericalism, and, as
the juryman is by nature one of Panurge's sheep, 1 the noble army
of " non-juring jurymen "grew rapidly. A few fines brought this
little faction to reason. Jurymen learnt that it was silly to harass
one's life or lose a summer holiday by so feeble a sacrifice to philo-
sophy. Peace was restored ; the fashion has now passed away ;
and nobody refuses any longer this little harmless ceremony,
1 See Rabelais, Pantagruel, bk. iv. c. 8. Panurge, who is on board a ship carrying
a flock of sheep, purchases one and throws it overboard. On this all the other sheep
leap after their comrade and are drowned.
THE COURT OF ASSIZE 185
although, as statistics show, there are as many free-thinking jury-
men as there were before.
After the oath, outward manifestations on the part of the jury
are at an end. They will generally listen to the pleadings without
a word, unless some prater bethinks him of putting a question, in
which case all his colleagues will believe themselves bound to do
likewise. But this is an exception ; and the jury-box will remain
the most lifeless part of the Court, up to the moment of the
verdict. It is now the president's turn to come on the scene.
In the hieratic days of the magistracy, which are not so very
long ago, the president of the Court of Assize was not a simple
man ; he was a demi-god. Scarcely had he, a plain counsellor
of the Court, been invested with these important functions
than an aureole appeared round his brow. He no longer walked,
he advanced ; he no longer spoke, he pronounced ; a kind of civil
pontiff, he launched forth upon the vulgar, not the greater excom-
munication, but the thunders of discretionary power. True, some
of the old presidents were gallant men, like M. de Saintes, who
said with a smile to the Countess de Tilly, charged with throwing
vitriol at a dressmaker, her rival, " Stand up, prisoner at the bar ;
for your ladyship knows that we are compelled to designate you
by this term." But it also happened that the interrogatory was
often reduced to a simple monologue, interrupted at long intervals
by these two objurgations, " Prisoner, explain yourself," and the
moment the prisoner opened his lips to answer, " Be silent ! "
These were the halcyon days of that ineffable thing, the sum-
ming-up ; in which the case for the prosecution was restated with
such complacency, and the defence whittled away with the most
utter disdain. The summing-up was abolished in 1880, when its
abuses were exposed by Maitre Lachaud, owing to the extremes to
which they had been pushed by Judge Bachelier, a past-master
in the art, during the trial of Mdlle. Marie Biere.
The majority of our readers are certain to remember this
counsellor a la Louis XV., with his powdered wig, his bands that
looked like a courtier's frill, and the little hands of which he took
such exquisite care, dainty as those of a fashionable abbe of the old
court. His summings-up were delightful, and in his flute-like
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
voice he would say the most terrible things with such perfect grace
that, excepting the prisoner, every one was forced to smile. Of this
time also was the old counsellor F (he is dead, trouble not his
shade ! ) who only had three formulas for summing up the defence.
It was " rather long," when the advocate was his friend ; " too long,
as usual," when the advocate was unknown to him ; " as usual, too
long and, moreover, badly put," when the advocate was a republican.
Counsellor F was an Orleanist.
The authors of this book, simple observers of the manners and
COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENCE.
customs of the law courts, wish to avoid the introduction of any
political remark into these pages ; it is not for them to offer any
opinion on the historical value of the change in the judicial
service, which followed the decrees against the monastic corpora-
tions ; but it must be said that, if it deprived the bench of some of
its dignified attributes, prisoners in particular and the cause of
justice in general have most decidedly gained by it. We do not
say that all presidents of the Courts of Assize have become models
of impartiality and sweet reasonableness ; but, excepting when
politics intrude, a man is no longer " finished off; " he is tried ;
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
and the brutality of the old-fashioned hanging judge has been
superseded by a more serious desire to investigate facts and motives.
During the last few years the psychological side of criminal trials
has undergone a remarkable development, and among our presi-
dents of assize are to be found thinkers and analysts of the first
The ideal president ought to put all his logic and all his sub-
tlety into the work of piercing the secrets of a tortuous mind : he
should be able to unravel all the stratagems of woman, she being
far better skilled than man in the art of self-defence ; and he should
have the power of summing up a whole argument in three words.
He should preside at a trial as if taking part in a conversation,
DURING THE SPEECH OF THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR.
Sketch by P. Renouard.
without raising his voice, and without threatening ; but, when the
male or female prisoner sits down after having been under exami-
nation for a quarter of an hour, they should have been turned
inside out, and the jury should be in possession of all the facts.
M. Berard des Glajeux, to-day one of the presidents in the
Court of Appeal at Paris, realises in more than one respect the type
of a perfect president. Equally out of the common was President
Cartier, who died a few years ago. The reader can recall him with
his bright red face, his long whiskers nearly white, his nose like
that of Punch, and his large eyes, beaming with a wondrous
comicality. He succeeded by assuming an air of familiarity, of
" good fellowship," we had almost said by blarney; a man besides of
a tolerant spirit who did not expect his fellow-creatures to be saints.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
But the best thing he ever did was his examination, conducted
with the most marvellous irony, of the abbe Roussel. The latter
prosecuted his ward, Mdlle. Annette Harchoux, for forging his
name ; a charge the young lady paid back on her trial by reproach-
ing the poor abbe for certain undue lengths to which he had been
wont to carry his former solicitude.
These dialogues that take place at the assizes, when conducted
by a master of the art, have a vividness that the theatre cannot give.
There are in the former intonations, attitudes, retorts, shudders,
that all the art of the most skilful dramatist is powerless to repro-
DURING THE SPEECH FOR THE DEFENCE.
By P. Renouard. '
duce upon the stage. A prisoner before his judges never expresses
his feelings by those noisy manifestation cries, tears, exclamations
with which actors in a play think themselves bound to accompany
their protestations of innocence. The drama of an Assize Court is
much more sober in its setting, but much more interesting than
what is enacted on the stage, and nothing ever strikes the spectator
as out of tune, for it is the actual expression of nature itself.
By the side of the presiding judge may be seen the repre-
sentative of the state, the Advocate-General ; " the advocate
THE COURT OF ASSIZE 189
digger " as prisoners call him. In popular portraits he is repre-
sented with short whiskers, thin lips, frowning brows, and a
malevolent expression. He is not always like this, nor does he
necessarily impress his points on the Court in tones of thunder,
accompanied by furious gesticulation. Advocate-General Bernard,
at present a counsellor of the Supreme Court, who prosecuted in
the trials of Madame Cloyis Hugues, Pel, Marchandon, and so many
other celebrated cases of the last few years, was on the contrary
a most gentle speaker, so scrupulous and tender-hearted that some-
times he seemed to be acting for the defence. He spoke to the jury
in a tone of resigned melancholy, knowing perfectly well how to
win them by means of some fellow-feeling, to which he would
give expression for their behoof. M. Bernard's very moderation
was the greatest danger the prisoner's advocate had to guard
Advocate-General Sarrut, who was prose-
cutor in the case of Prado, is a very different
man. His style is terse, incisive, pitiless.
Immovable as a statue, he weaves his argu-
ments so closely that the prisoner will not
find one single mesh left open for his escape.
There is in him no trace of indignation or
anger, but at the same time there is none
of tenderness nor mercy; there is no touch
of feminine nature about him, if we may
not say nothing human ; above all, nothing M SARRUT , ADVOCATE-
IS sacrificed to ornament or grace. Such is a GENERAL.
speech for the prosecution by Advocate-
General Sarrut. It is a sermon. Those who in the foggy light of an
autumn day heard this gaunt, melancholy, hollow-cheeked man,
with his straight hair, and red beard cut to a point in the Huguenot
fashion of Charles IX., ask for the head of Prado, must have looked
upon him with a kind of terror as an inquisitor of old arisen from
Very different again is the Procureur-General, M. Quesnay de
Beaurepaire : in the first place he is a man of letters, who loves
form and grace of diction, with a subtle brain that disdains no
refinement of sentiment. At the bar of the Assize Court, the
author of Le Forestier shows his turn for descriptions, picturesque
to the verge of being overdone, but painted with the richest
I9O THE PARIS LAW COURTS
colouring and the most powerful of brushes. He has a lazy,
drawling accent ; he wears his cap like a student, at the back of
his head ; in his gait there is something uncertain and irresolute.
The man in fact, with his rough features, his prominent bones, his
mocking and sarcastic eye, gives rather the impression of a Breton
peasant than that of a Parisian Procureur-General. But the altera-
tion in him when he begins to address the Court is astonishing.
After five minutes the spectators cease to think about his walk or
his accent. An actor of incomparable skill, a speaker and thinker
of unquestionable power, a remarkable man, in fact, stands before
you. Under his searching and crushing analysis the prisoner
has no secrets. The Procureur-General attacks him in front
directly, describing him by a gesture, piercing his very soul with a
glance, weaving round him a net of suggestive phrases, while ever
and anon he makes him start by some sudden and unexpected
apostrophe. " I know your name," said M. Quesnay de Beaure-
paire to the mysterious Campi, " I am going to tell it you !...."
And he seemed as if about to fall upon him, his finger stretched
out as if pointing at the corpse. The prisoner waited all trembling
while his adversary lengthened out his words, and prolonged his
silence till the culprit began to think his secret known, and his real
name on the point of being cast in his teeth. Then, with a dis-
dainful smile, satisfied with the effect produced, M. de Beaurepaire
finished his sentence in a tone of contemptuous irony : " I know
your name, and I am going to tell it you ; you are the murderer of
the Rue du Regard ! "
Eight years after the trial of Campi, M. de Beaurepaire crowned
his career by his celebrated speech before the High Court of Jus-
tice against General Boulanger, and by the oration he delivered in
the Gouffe case. On the latter occasion he showed much good
sense and sound judgment in opposing that love for the marvellous
which has reappeared in our day under the scientific name of
hypnotism. In this combat the school of Nancy received a fatal
We will now take a look round on the other side of the bar.
Here are the advocates. Some of them are veterans, old stagers
at the Court of Assize, who for forty years have sung the same old
SKETCHES IN THE COURT OF ASSIZE.
By P. Renouard.
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
song in the same confident tone. Some are young fellows, striplings
fresh from the conference, nervous as at a first assignation, as fas-
cinated by time-worn arguments as a rhetorician by the charms
of some ripe beauty. There are some of them whose reputation
is growing, whose career the press follows with interest, whose por-
traits will perhaps find a place in a future edition of this work.
At the present time the Parisian criminal bar is ruled by three
great names, Lachaud, Maitre Demange, and Maitre Albert Danet.
We say Lachaud, because he is a possession for ail time. If
the hero is dead, his
memory and his tra-
dition have survived
him. Beethoven was
not a musician, but
music itself ; so La-
chaud was not a de-
fender, he was the
defender of accused
persons. An orator,
if you like, and a
great orator, skilled
in all vocal har-
monies, in all modu-
lations of tone, with
ten, nay twenty dif-
ferent voices at his
as he was called up-
on to convince or to
persuade, to touch or to terrify ; but, before all, he was a tacti-
cian of the very highest rank, and a psychologist by whose side
specialists of that name were mere stammering babes. Lachaud
had often won a case before he began his speech ; he had won it
by some adroit question addressed to the chief witness, by some
sagacious preparation of his client, by a smile or a sarcastic inter-
jection, with which he underscored the feeble arguments in the
prosecutor's address. His knowledge of a jury was extraordinary.
Lachaud would make twelve separate speeches if he had to deal
with twelve jurymen of different conditions. He knew well that a
consideration which moved a draper would make no impression on
194 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
a mining engineer. With a marvellous intuition, he would find his
way into every man's heart, executing variations on the same
theme with incomparable vivacity, speaking to each juryman in
turn, fixing him with an eye which saw everything, never letting
him go till he was thoroughly convinced. He had an exquisite
wit and a kindly and indulgent soul. He was a good man to the
poor, he loved his art more than anything, he was the protector,
the friend of all those with power to think ; and, in troublous
times, he was the disinterested and generous defender of free-
dom of opinion. Like Lente, that other giant, he came, so to
speak, to die at the bar, already overcome by the numbness of
approaching death, but rousing himself to utter one last touching
address before judges whom his darkened eyes could no longer dis-
tinguish. And he fell into the eternal sleep with his face turned to
that exquisite portrait of Madame Lafarge a youthful figure with
soft hair, large lustrous eyes, and pale complexion, showing a white
rose in her bosom a portrait which, painted for his chambers in
the Rue Bonaparte by Madame O'Connell, recalled to him the first
triumph of his youthful years.
His successor, Maitre Demange, is, above all, an orator. He
has the same variety of gesture as Lachaud, the same enthusiasm
and the same wealth of expression. His voice is rich and ringing ;
his rhetoric is less persuasive than Lachaud's, but perhaps more
moving. He has two favourite notes, one warlike as a clarion,
the other melodious and soothing, and there is occasionally too
quick a change from one to the other. For the rest, Maitre
Demange has all the external charm of Lachaud, an honest,
sympathetic face, bordered with whiskers that enjoy perpetual
youth, and a magnificent breadth of chest. Since the case of
Prince Pierre Bonaparte, which established his reputation, and
that of Dr. Garrigue, for whom he obtained an acquittal at
Perigueux on a charge of poisoning his father, Maitre Demange
has been engaged in nearly all the great trials of recent times. He
appeared for Dr. Castelnau, for Fenayrcu at Versailles, for Madame
Achet at Moulins, without speaking of sensational assize cases,
like that of Pranzini at Paris.
By the side of Maitre Demange stands Maitre Albert Danet,
honeyed, persuasive, irresistible, to whom a jury can refuse nothing.
If he failed in the case of Marchandon, it was because this wretch
was impossible of defence ; but he obtained an acquittal for Lucien
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
Fenayrou, and he had the skill to persuade M. Grevy that Aba die,
the ferocious criminal for whom he appeared ten years ago, could
be permitted to live, without risk to society.
raising the war-cry for their
IN SUPPORT OF THE PROSECUTION
In Lachaud, Demange, and Albert Danet we have seen three
different types of counsel for the defence. Time was when it was
hard to find a leading man among counsel for the prosecution, or
advocates who support the indictment, and serve as auxiliaries
to the Public Prosecutor. Accustomed to plead for the acquittal
of prisoners, the great advocates of the assizes have no prac-
tice in sounding the charge or
condemnation. These two intel-
lectual feats are impossible to one
and the same mind. This year
an ideal prosecuting counsel has
at last appeared in Maitre
Waldeck - Rousseau, an ex-
minister who has quitted the
great things of the political
world, and is on the way to take
the first position among advo-
cates retained in large cases at
the law courts. We have seen
Maitre Waldeck-Rousseau mea-
sure himself with Maitre Demange
in the mysterious Chantelle case ;
the former demanding justice in
the name of the murdered notary's
heirs, the latter defending Madame Achet. Tall, phlegmatic,
rather English in his manner, perfectly self-possessed, speak-
ing with unimpeachable authority, he dissects a criminal case
as if he were analysing an account ; that is, so far as clearness is
concerned; but, that elegance may not be lacking, he sets forth his
facts with a cold irony and -humour positively delicious. Maitre
Waldeck-Rousseau is the ally whom the Public Prosecutor has long
been dreaming of, I had almost said dreading ; for when a man of
this stamp has thrown a strong light on a case, nothing more
remains to be said by others.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
WITNESSES AND EXPERTS
We have delineated the principal actors in the drama : the
presiding judge, the jury, the public prosecutor, the advocate ; and
we have sketched the impressionable and noisy crowd of spectators.
It would be beyond the scope of this volume to do more than out-
line the secondary characters :
The witness for the prosecution ; important, listened to, con-
gratulated. The witness for the defence; hesitating, awkward,
often snubbed and reprimanded by the presiding judge. The
accountant not gifted with grace of style, but terribly conscientious.
The expert in handwriting, "this character from farcical comedy"
as Georges Laguerre so neatly called him, grave, solemn as an
undertaker, and wearing a look that
sends the irreverent reporters on their
bench into a fit of laughter. Look at
Doctor Brouardel, a marvel of precision
and clearness, expounding his medical
science so simply and gracefully as to
be within the comprehension of his
most ignorant hearer. Look at Doctor
Motet, the great authority on insanity^
with his choice and elegant phraseology,
his mental pictures beautifully sketched
in a few clever strokes, his analysis of
mental states, which the psychologists
already mentioned ought to come and
hear with the humility of school boys.
Look at the usher, stout, short of breath, full of business, pushing
through the crowd, in perpetual search of his witnesses who have
run off to get a drink. Then, modest, obliging, wholly unbiased
and always able to foretell the verdict, comes the clerk of the Court*
M. Wiljnes ; he has succeeded the great Commerson, who now
lives in retirement at Versailles, after half a century of official life,
hale as at thirty, always jovial and good-tempered, the great
Commerson, whose strong sense, as Lachaud wittily said, " survived
fifty years of summings-up," and yet there is still some one whom
we have forgotten. Who is it ? The prisoner.
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
We need not linger over unimportant cases of injury to the
person or commonplace infanticides. It is true that every case at
the assizes, however ordinary its circumstances, could in itself
furnish matter for study and observation. There
is much that is curious in the
physiognomy of the little clerk
driven to embezzlement by betting
on horse-races. Curious too that
of the waif of society who after
twenty years of unsettled exist-
ence became a thief one night out
of hunger. There is something
horrible in this father of a family who has satis-
fied a brutal passion on the person of his own daughter. It is very
interesting to watch this Gobseck, extradited from Belgium, who
holds forth on finance with an assurance that shows complete
contempt for his judges. And heartrending
it is to hear this poor girl,
dismissed from her situation
because she was about to
become a mother, who in an
hour of desperation has left
the child of ignorance and
misery to perish. Let us touch
lightly on politics, which, for ten years, have
given but little employment to the Courts of
Assize, thanks to the liberal spirit of the present laws, and perhaps
also to the just mistrust in which juries are held by the powers
POLITICS IN THE ASSIZE COURT
To find a striking political trial, we must go back to the action
brought in 1881 against M. Henri Rochefort by Consul Roustan,
after the expedition to Tunis. Maitre Gatineau, a deputy for the
department of Eure-et-Loir, was charged with the defence of the
editor of 'Ch.o.Intransigeant. The mere name of Gatineau is enough
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
to produce a smile and banish dulness. With his hair dyed green,
his gold-rimmed glasses, his ruddy face, and his eyes that sparkled
with bucolic archness, Gatineau, under this Rabelaisian exterior, was
a stout fighter and a formidable opponent. Sharp as a needle, he
demolished the most pompous arguments of the public prosecutor
by some stroke of irony delivered with an assumed rustic accent.
This prosecution, entered upon with such solemnity, produced no-
thing but endless laughter. M. Henri Rochefort and his counsel told
the jury anecdotes of Moorish life and stories about the Kroumirs,
and the jurymen, after spending a whole day in danger of splitting
their sides, forgot all about the facts of the case, and gave a verdict
for the newspaper with thanks, possibly not even thinking that
they had at the same time passed censure on
one of the most important epi-
sodes in contemporary history.
Since that date, except the trial
of General Boulanger, which did
not take place in the law courts,
but before the Senate, we cannot
mention any political case which
has caused a sensation.
From time to time some ob-
scure anarchist is brought before the Court of
Assize for having distributed in barracks papers calling on the
troops to mutiny in case of any disturbance. He has refused
the aid of an advocate ; but a comrade has asked leave to defend
him, and for two or three hours, not without a certain vigour that
occasionally impresses the hearers, the most furious revolutionary
demands will be hurled in the faces of a middle-class jury. In
the end, there will be a verdict without extenuating circumstances>
a sentence of two years' imprisonment, and a fierce cry of " Anarchy
for ever ! " taken up in chorus by the prisoner's friends, who crowd
the body of the Court. Thus we see that at the Court of Assize
politics form only an interlude ; let us return to its regular clients.
VICE AT THE ASSIZES THE BEGINNERS
First of all come the juvenile criminals, whose numbers have
increased terribly in these last few years. Gilles and Abadie, those
two ill-favoured street Arabs who shed so much blood in the
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
suburbs of Paris ten or twelve years ago, were little more than
sixteen. Gamahut, the murderer of Madame Ballerich, was leader
of a band whose oldest member was twenty. Twenty was the
IN THE DOCK.
age of Corporal Geomay, executed in 1890 for the murder of a
spirit-dealer on the Boulevard St. Germain ; and of the same age
were Mecrant and Catelain, the accomplices of
Sellier and Allorto, in the murder at
Auteuil. Kaps, when he strangled an
old man named Vingard after a drink-
ing bout, was only fourteen. A sort of
fatality seems year by year to lower
the age of the youngest murderer,
" Nonsense," say these boy criminals ;
"I am too young for the mowing
.. ''- . machine," and, through a dream, they
seem to see the mirage of New Caledonia. The
dangerous clemency of M. Grevy kept them confident for a long
time, and, in spite of the necessary reaction which has since taken
place, the legend still survives in the world of rogues and bullies
who are the plague of Paris.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
HEROES OF THE CRIMINAL CALENDAR
No less than ten of these can be counted during the last five or
six years, although it is perhaps improper to place an assassin like
Marchandon, or a murderer of fallen women like Pranzini, on the
same level with that master in crime, the mysterious Prado ; a man
of culture and of biting wit, whose appearance betokened ancient
breeding, refined education, and a past crowded with adventure,
travel, and brigandage. Never will those who beheld him forget
that man, who sat in the dock as if
at home, directed the whole proceed-
ings, and pursued with reproaches
and satire his two mistresses, the
fair - haired Eugenie Forestier and
the bright and sparkling little woman
from Bordeaux who called herself
Another hero of crime also was
that extraordinary creature Campi.
He had murdered in the Rue du
Regard an old gentleman, M. Ducros
de Sixt, who lived a very retired life,
completely given up to good works.
" Your name ? " " Campi." " Your
age ? " " Thirty-three.'' " Your pro-
fession ? " " None." " Your home ? "
" None." The legal chronicler will
always have before him the man whose
very memory is a terror. In his bold
and resolute glance could be read an
expression of savage hate against
society. The presiding judge, M. Berard des Glajeux, with all his
art, could not extract from Campi the secret of his crime. Campi
was not a thief ; he had killed M. Ducros de Sixt to satisfy a feeling
of revenge. What was it ? He never told, and he died nameless,
casting a look of pity and disdain at the executioner. Of his own
accord he threw himself on the fatal plank, shrugging his shoulders
and muttering, " It is only this ! " In our memories of the Palace
there still arises the face of the alchemist Pel, a watchmaker at
Montreuil, accused of many poisonings, a would-be scientist who
SKETCH BY P. RENOUARD.
THE COURT OF ASSIZE
had tried experiments with arsenic in animti vili, doubtless think-
ing that the life of a few old female servants was of no use to the
world. With his great sunken eyes, his enormous spectacles, his
ghastly paleness, and his straggling beard of uncertain colour, this
solemn, silent man recalled some legend from the middle ages.
o o *
and looked as if he had just stepped out of the dungeons of some
CRIMES CONNECTED WITH LOVE VITRIOL AND REVOLVERS
Of the three great dramas of passion which during the last ten
years have excited public opinion, and provided material for the
novel and the theatre, two had their catastrophe outside Paris.
Henri Chambige was tried at Constantine ; the brothers Peltzer were
tried at Brussels. Two marvellous cases, almost perfect, we might
well say, if it were not a blasphemy in such a connection. In the
Chambige case, a young man of high education, a dainty writer, a
sentimental delineator of the first rank, was brought little by little,
through self-analysis and morbid study of his own feelings, to desire
death in company with a yung girl of irreproachable character,
without thinking, unhappy creature, of the orphans that this imi-
tation of Werther would leave behind. In the Peltzer case, the
death of the husband, an advocate named Bernays, was decided
upon and arranged by the wife's lover ; the crime is committed by
deputy at Brussels, while the principal criminal, Armand Peltzer,
202 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
shows himself at Antwerp ; the deed is due to gratitude, being
undertaken by a brother whom Armand had formerly saved from
bankruptcy, and who now comes back from America with made-
up face, disguised, his skin stained with a composition of bistre and
amber which gives him the appearance of a South American, so
unrecognisable that he can present himself to Bernays, his former
friend, as the agent of an Australian company, and strike him down
in perfect safety, so as to set free the woman whom his brother
coveted. But these two cases, celebrated as they are, lie beyond
our scope. At Paris, the only great drama of human passion de-
manding our attention is the Fenayrou case. This, moreover, was
heard at Versailles in the first place, and only sent before a Paris-
ian jury after the first decision had been quashed. The lying in
wait in the little house at Pecq, the lover decoyed by the wife into
the husband's power, struck down without pity, the body forced
into a piece of lead piping and thrown into the Seine ; the eco-
nomy of Madame Fenayrou, a little tradesman's wife with an air
of respectability, who, in going from Paris to Pecq, took a return
ticket for herself and a single one for Aubert, because Aubert was
not to return all the dark story is still present to the minds of
our readers, and a mere mention of its name is enough to revive
the drama in all its details. At the time of the trial public
opinion was divided between two opposing theories. Some de-
clared that the husband had avenged himself ; others that he had
killed Aubert because this young man had discovered some terrible
secret, the secret of an abortion, perhaps a poisoning. The presi-
dent, Berard des Glajeux, alone understood that it was the woman
who had taken revenge. " This is a woman's crime," said he to
Gabrielle. Fenayrou, in his rather cracked but incisive voice;
" Aubert had ceased to love you, he was going to be married, you
had chosen the propitious moment for throwing yourself at your
husband's feet, knowing that he would forgive you, and that he
would satiate your hatred while believing that he was only carrying
out his own revenge." This was the truth of the matter. Of the
actors in the drama the husband died in New Caledonia; the
wife, sentenced to perpetual confinement, ever silent and impene-
trable, continues at Clairvaux to drag out the existence of a
prisoner for life.
Their story has not taken us long ; but this study of the Court
THE COURT OF ASSIZE 2O3
of Assize and its passion dramas would not be complete without a
few words on the use of vitriol and the revolver.
The reign of vitriol was inaugurated in 1877 by a gay lady,
styled Madame de la Tour in the roll of honour of that profession,
but in reality named Widow Gras. Old age was close upon her,
her hair was already white, and she was on the point of being
abandoned by a rich young lover, who was going to be married.
She now conceived the infernal plan of making him unfit for mar-
riage by disfigurement, in which event she intended to attach
herself to her victim for life by assuming the part of a sister of
mercy. The most interesting character in this intricate drama was
a workman, the metal-worker Gaudry, a playmate of the Widow
Gras when she was only a house-porter's little girl, and her con-
stant lover afterwards, whose fondness for
her had been increased by her success, her
elegance, and the high rank of her lovers.
Widow Gras called Gaudry to her assist-
ance, coaxed him, promised to marry him
as soon as M. de R , on whom she
wished to wreak vengeance, said she, had
been " vitriolised," and she put into his
hands the bottle of sulphuric acid. She
was condemned to fifteen years' penal
servitude, and to-day she keeps a restaurant
near the Rue de Maubeuge. From the
Sketch by P. Renouard.
date of her crime vitriol became the chosen
weapon of deserted milliners, deceived wives, and sometimes of
neglected fancy men. A few severe verdicts have put an end to
the favour it enjoyed for some two years.
The most celebrated heroine of the revolver was Marie Biere,
the sentimental singer, who, in 1880, shot her old lover, a well-
known clubman, on the Place de 1'Opera. She was rather pretty,
spoke in the sweetest of tones, and no woman ever born knew
so well what attitude to assume before her judges. Lachaud got
her acquitted amid a scene of indescribable enthusiasm. Marie
Biere subsequently married in Roumania; but the school she founded
has ever since enjoyed great prosperity. The revolver still con-
tinues to be the ultima ratio with nervous people of both sexes.
204 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Ten times, perhaps twenty times a year, and at Paris oftener
than elsewhere, the regular frequenter of the Court will be present
at a sight like this. ^ A little milliner or shop-girl is seated in the
dock, sobbing, with her face thickly veiled, half fainting against the
knees of the municipal guard who supports her gallantly. The
public prosecutor, as a matter of form, has asked for a conviction
which he does not expect, for juries can never bring themselves to
send a pretty woman into solitary confinement for five years, and
five years is the minimum sentence allowed by law. The lover, who
appears in a more or less damaged condition at the bar, has been
properly mauled, and the advocate for the defence has overwhelmed
him with a storm of invective. The speeches come to an end, and
the jury have retired to deliberate on their verdict. Then the ex-
cited and feverish Court becomes literally stifling. People have
crept along all the corridors and slipped in at all the doors, the
ladies have invaded the front seats, and their coloured dresses
stand out in bright relief against the black gowns worn by the
Certain persons absolutely unconnected with the bench, though
some of them have possibly appeared as defendants in the Eighth
Chamber, have majestically taken up a position behind the presi-
dent's chair. Close to the usher's little desk may be seen a regular
frequenter of the Court of Assize, an old gentleman, with white
whiskers, \vho has never missed a trial for twenty years ; he
has been dubbed " the thirteenth juryman," and may be heard
declaring that the jury will not deliberate for more than ten
And, in fact, a bell placed over the door of the jury-room rings
twice, with two sharp tinkles, which are forthwith repeated by a
bell placed over the main entrance to the Court. The jury are
returning, most of them well pleased and radiant ; one or two only
look a little doubtful and ask one another " what the newspapers
will say about it." Slowly they regain their seats, while the
judges, informed of their return, come back into Court by the little
door opposite. " Sit down ! sit down ! " is the cry on all sides. The
THE COURT OF ASSIZE 2OJ
usher calls out " Silence ! " till he is hoarse, and the guards exert
themselves to make ladies who have mounted on the benches get
down again. At last the murmur dies away, and the president says
in emphatic tones, " Whatever the verdict of the jury may be, I
must insist on the public keeping strict silence. I shall not hesitate
to have any one who presumes to applaud brought up before the
Court." Then courteously turning to the right, he proceeds,.
" Mr. Foreman, be so good as to acquaint the Court with the result
of your deliberations."
With his right hand on his heart, trembling slightly, and his
voice a little quavering, the foreman of the jury begins to read,
sheltering himself behind the large sheet of white paper which
shakes in his hand. " On my honour and my conscience, before
God and before man, the verdict of the jury is Not guilty'' It is
an acquittal !
" Bring in the prisoner again," orders the president. All eyes
are turned towards the little door which gives access to the dock ;.
fresh cries of " Sit down ! " arise, men struggle for a sight of the
prisoner, and the president raps on his desk with his paper knife :
" Clerk of the Court, acquaint the prisoner with the verdict." " The
jury have found a verdict of Not guilty," says the clerk in a clear
voice, while the prisoner, with tearful eyes, leans forward to grasp
her advocate's hand. The president then pronounces the acquittal
in form. "We, president of the Court of Assize, in virtue of the
powers with which we are invested by the law, having received the
verdict of the jury to the effect that the prisoner at the bar is not
guilty of the acts imputed to her, do now declare her acquitted of
the charge laid against her ; and we order that she be forthwith
released, if she be not required on another charge."
Then there bursts forth a storm not of enthusiasm, but of
frenzy. Women rush towards the dock, cheering, crying " Bravo,"
trying their utmost to attract the heroine's attention. . . .
Those farthest off wave their handkerchiefs, probationers in their
excitement throw their caps in the air ; others, more bitter, remark
" that if the prisoner has got off it is not her counsel's fault ; " the
reporters, pressed for time, jump over the barriers and try to reach
the nearest exit as quickly as possible. . . . Meanwhile, at the
back of the Court, the crowd, like the chorus of a Greek play, takes
up the dainty cries of the ladies in front till they swell into a
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
mighty rpar. The latter, faithful to the freemasonry of the sex
celebrate their own victory in the triumph of another woman.
The former, the working women in white caps, cheer furiously,
till the guard clears the Court, the woman of the people who has
had revenge on a gentleman ! . . .
PARIS escapes a scandal which disgraces most of the provincial
Assize Courts. It never sees the public removal of a prisoner to gaol
after conviction accompanied by the coarse jeers of an inquisitive
crowd. The Palace of Justice at Paris, in fact, provides lodgings
for its criminals. They are kept in one of its outlying buildings,
to wit, the Conciergerie prison, whence the guards bring them
straight into Court for trial by an inside staircase. Why, it may be
asked, the name "Conciergerie"? Possibly, says M. Pottet in his
book, because the existing prison, a barrack under the old kings of
France, was inhabited by a captain who bore the title of " Comte
des Cierges," or " Concierge," a person in the enjoyment of high
prerogatives, and very nearly as powerful as our contemporary
concierges or house-porters.
Before 1826 the entrance to this prison was in the Cour
d'Honneur, better known as the Cour de Mai, to the right and at
the foot of the grand staircase. The wicket-gate with its ironwork
grating which gave access to the prison still exists ; it now forms
part of the Police Court buildings. Through this gate the great
men of the Revolution and the victims of the Terror passed on
their way to the tumbril which was to bear them to the guillotine.
This entrance to the Conciergerie was walled up in 1826. But
in walling it up the architect forgot that the prison kitchens were
situated on the other side of the wicket. The result is that at the
present time the prison cooks have to tramp right round the Palace
of Justice with a complicated apparatus of straps and buckets in
order to bring the prisoners their porridge. Always practical, these
208 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
architects ! In order to make up for the closed gate on the Quai
de 1'Horloge, a new gate was then built between the two broad
towers, the Tour Cesar and the Tour d' Argent. Later on, in 1864,
this new gate was walled up in its turn ; and on the same quay, to
the right and not far from the Tour Cesar, a new gate was opened
through which at present entrance may be obtained to the ancient
prison. It was then that the Conciergerie was turned into a place
of solitary confinement. For this purpose extensive works were
carried out, the chief result of which was seen in the destruction of
the ancient halls and dungeons in which so many historic characters
have been imprisoned.
At the present day the Conciergerie may, for the purposes of a
visit, be divided into two parts : the historical part, void of
inhabitants but full of associations; and the part now used for
solitary confinement. The first portion may be visited on Thurs-
days by special permission of the Prefect of Police. Let us enter.
We pass through a heavy gate provided with an enormous lock,,
in which the warder's key sounds like an iron jaw breaking a
stone. We then cross a little court, turn to the right, and there,,
before us, stands the pointed wicket-gate with the iron grating,
above which may be read the words, Maison de Justice.
We go down a little stone staircase, and find ourselves in the
old Salle des Gardes. It has been deprived of its ante-rcom and
office, of its partitions and compartments, the sole remaining portion
of the ancient decoration being its broad pillars, with capitals carved
in a somewhat irreverent way ; one of them representing with
realistic fidelity a critical love passage between Abelard and
Heloi'se. In the embrasure of the window is a bench for the
women to sit on who bring prisoners a dinner from outside.
In front of us is another wicket-gate with a peephole. This
is the main entrance to the part used for the confinement of
prisoners. A slight turn to the right brings us to a double stair-
case of stone with iron bannisters. That on the left hand leads to
the hall of the Tour d'Argent, which, it is said, was once occupied
by Queen Blanche and formed the prison of Damiens. The young
Duke of Orleans was shut up there in 1889 before being taken to
Clairvaux. That on the right leads to the hall of the Tour Cesar,
where Prince Pierre Bonaparte was imprisoned after the murder
of Victor Noir in 1870 and Prince Napoleon after his manifesto
The hall of the Tour Cesar is now used as a private room by
the governor of the Conciergerie. On the story below is the
chamber once occupied by Ravaillac and Lacenaire.
The space beneath the Tour d'Argent contains the advocates'
common room ; and on the floor above is the private room where
the presidents of the Assize Court come at the beginning of every
session to examine prisoners.
Let us retrace our steps, recross the Salle des Gardes and look
before us. In front we perceive a lofty gate of strong ironwork
which leads into the dark gallery
called the Rue de Paris. On the
right is a little door, now walled
up on the inside, from which
there used to be a staircase
leading to the Revolutionary
Court. This tribunal was held
in the room above, now occupied
by the First Chamber of the
Civil Court. 1 On the left is
the hall of Saint Louis. Ad-
mission to this can only be
obtained by special permission,
but a view can be had of
the interior through a grating
by standing up on a stool in
the Rue de Paris. It lies im-
mediately below the Salle des
The Rue de Paris is lighted
by gas, even in the daytime. At
the extreme end are new folding
doors, giving admission to what
remains of the old Conciergerie. The porter makes his keys grate
in the locks, the doors open, and the visitor finds himself in an ugly,
dark, white-washed passage, now divided into two parts. Here, in
days gone by, were dungeons, as celebrated as those of the Bastille,
with doors fast closed by thick bars and heavy bolts. These dungeons
1 Established, for the trial of state- conspirators, March 10, 1793. Its powers were
largely increased by Robespierre on June 10, 1794. It declined in importance after
Robespierre's fall, July 27, 1794; and was suppressed May 31, 1795.
A KITCHEN CHIMNEY IN THE PALACE
Froai an old engraving.
212 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
were occupied by Danton, Camille Desmoulins, General Hoche
Vergniaud and the young deputies of the Gironde, Marat, Couthon,.
Saint Just, the German Adam Lux, "who died from the last glance
of Charlotte Corday," Heberr, Chaumette, and many other celebri-
ties of the great Revolution. They, however, exist no longer ; the
works rendered necessary by the new prison installation have swept
away everything, even the subterranean dungeons, not unknown to-
politicians and journalists of the First Empire, of the Restoration,.
of the July Monarchy, and of the Coup d'tat of December 2nd.
The corridor in which we now stand is furnished, on the left, with
new iron gratings of immense size. Behind it are the apartments
belonging to the old office of the prison and an exit, now walled up,
to the Cour de Mai. In front of us, through the barred windows
which give a dim light to the corridor, can be seen the women's
quarter and the cells which were tenanted by Madame Elisabeth,.
Charlotte Corday, and others. Under the July Monarchy, these
different cells had for tenants well-known regicides and political
prisoners : Fieschi, Alibaud, Prince Louis Napoleon, the Due de
Persigny, Doctor Conneau, &c.
THE DUNGEON OF MARIE ANTOINETTE
At the end of the corridor and on the right, facing a new door
which leads to the modern prison, is the famous dungeon of Queen
Marie Antoinette. It communicates with the cell of Robespierre,
the latter leading to the hall of the Girondins. All the other dun-
geons occupied by celebrated prisoners of the Revolution, and
before them by great historical characters, have disappeared. But
for a long time past, since the Restoration in fact, the dungeon of
Marie Antoinette has itself been deprived of its prison attributes
and turned into a chapel. Dr. Veron, in his Memoires d'un Bour-
geois de Paris, gives an amusing account of this change. In 1812^
M. Decazes, then a counsellor of the Imperial Court at Paris, paid
a visit to the Conciergerie as president of the Court of Assize.
While walking through the long corridors, he took a fancy to enter
the dungeon of Marie Antoinette. He there surprised one of the
junior warders engaged in a love idyll with a female prisoner with
whom he had made an assignation.
M. Decazes forthwith set to work to try and get this dungeon
turned into a chapel. He drew up a report on the subject, which
THE CONCIERGERIE 213
was approved by the Supreme Court at Paris, but Napoleon's
Minister of Justice refused his sanction, and the transformation
only took place when the Due Decazes became Louis XVIII.'s
minister, in 1816.
In 1793 there was no communication between the queen's
dungeon and the little cell to which Robespierre was carried later on.
The communicating door was walled up, like that which connected
Robespierre's cell with the prison of the Girondins. The bed of
Marie Antoinette was most probably placed against the door of
communication. On the other side, in front, was the guard-room,
through which visitors had to pass in order to enter the queen's
dungeon. The door of communication has been again walled up,
as can be ascertained by pushing aside a panel on which is painted
a picture, unsigned, representing the queen taking the sacrament.
Marie Antoinette is accompanied by two gendarmes, by a per-
son said to be M. Magnin, and a lady who perhaps is intended for
Mdlle. Fouche. This picture has a companion piece, representing
the removal of Marie Antoinette from the Temple Prison to the Con-
ciergerie. On the whole they are second-rate productions, whether
by Drolling, as some say, or by Menjana, according to the opinion
Of the articles used by the queen, there only now remain the
little lamp hanging in the alcove and the crucifix that may be seen
on the altar. As to the arm-chair in which Marie Antoinette used
to sit, a former governor of the Conciergerie was obliged to have it
removed to his office in order to save it from the horde of tourists
of every nation, each of whom tried to carry off a memento in the
shape of a nail, a tassel, or a piece of the woodwork. The large
window, by which the altar stands, is fitted up with panes in stained
glass of a most execrable style. " Turkish coffee-house windows "
Victor Hugo called them. Above the altar is a Latin inscription due
to Louis XVI 1 1., and below this is a marble slab bearing an extract
from the will of Marie Antoinette, quite illegible at the present day.
The dungeon of Robespierre, which stands close to that of the
queen, is a very small apartment with white-washed walls and a
window of blue and yellow panes, the bars of which have disap-
peared. At the back is a picture, possibly by Drolling, unless it be
by Menjana, representing Marie Antoinette in her cell. She has a
black veil on her head, and lies stretched on a truckle bed, close to
the screen which separates her from the prying eyes of her warders.
214 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
THE HALL OF THE GIRONDINS
Opening out from and on a level with tho dungeon of Robes-
pierre, is the great hall which served as a prison for priests and
royalists during the Terror. Here, also, the Girondins passed their
last night. In modern times it has been turned into the chapel of
the Conciergerie. At about the height of the organ, the visitor
will remark galleries fenced in with iron bars, which have a curious
resemblance to the place in a bear-pit where the beasts are shut
up when the keeper is about to clean their den.
The little door on the left opens on to the court where the
September massacres took place. The Girondins passed through
it on their way to the scaffold. In this celebrated hall Vergniaud
and his friends took their last meal in the presence of the corpse
of Valaze, after their condemnation to death, on the night of
October 29th, 1793. There is something curious in this little court
with its monastic aspect, its white-washed walls, its stone table
and its fountain. Down to 1887 it was tenanted by cabmen sen-
tenced to twenty-four hours' detention. They are now sent to-
the Petite Roquette, and the court serves as an exercise ground
for young girls under sixteen imprisoned for various reasons.
They make a pretty picture as they walk up and down this
gloomy court, clad in heavy grey dresses and grey capes ; they
have smiling faces in spite of the barred windows and the grim iron
gate, in height equalling the wall which shuts them in ; and their
careless, gay air shows no anticipation of the future which awaits
The three gates at the end of the chapel are now walled up, as
well as the gate by which the Girondins returned from the Revo-
lutionary Court singing the Marseillaise.
THE MODERN PRISON
We have just seen the historic Conciergerie. We must retrace
our steps to visit the prison now in use, which, as we have said,
must be approached by the Salle des Gardes.
On entering we pass through a little room used for searching
prisoners, and just on the right of this are the visiting rooms. 1
1 Parloirs des parents.
THE CONCIERGERIE 21 5
Imagine a couple of the compartments to be found in telephone
offices narrowed down, and put side by side, but separated from
one another by a network of stout wire ; imagine yourself shut
up in one of these boxes without Tight or air, while in the other
stands some prison friend of yours who is waiting to appear
before a jury ; you will have some idea of what a visit to a
prisoner is like. On the left are the cells, of which there
are seventy-three. Every now and then a little telegraphic signal-
arm placed before the door falls with a noise like a chopper.
This means that a prisoner has called the warder for some
urgent reason. Take a look into this cell through the little half-
open wicket. You will see a darkish slip of a room, with three
men lying brutishly on mattresses, their senses deadened by
continual anxiety and never-ending reflection. They are all
in a heap near one another gloomy, spiritless, suffering, and
pitiable. When they hear your steps they raise themselves on
their arms, cast a glance of curiosity at you ; but when they
see that you are only a passer-by and bring them neither
orders nor news, they fall back again into their attitude of
A little farther on a door opens on the separate exercising
spaces, exactly like the cages to be seen in a zoological garden,
where prisoners walk up and down in pairs, silently brooding.
At the sound of steps they move hurriedly to the bars. They
make the visitor think of an animal running up in hopes of a
piece of bread. Tamed already by their imprisonment, on seeing
your tall hat they make you a low bow, and remain in a
respectful attitude till you have passed by.
Yet the exercise yard of the Conciergerie is less gloomy than
that to be found in many other prisons. In the summer time
three sickly little shrubs two stunted lilacs and a half-dead
spindle-treeenliven the cold grey of the pavement and the
harshness of the red brick wall with a soothing touch of green.
" They do not live, you see, sir," says the warder, while we look at
the three poor plants. " Here it is always too hot or too cold.
Plants want air, sun, and liberty."
And what of men ?
The prisoners confined in the Conciergerie are those committed
for trial before the Court of Assize, those who have appealed
against a conviction by the Correctional Court of a Department
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
within the appellate jurisdiction of the capital, 1 and those sentenced
to death, during the three days' grace allowed them by the law for
an appeal to the Court of Cassation.
1 The jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal at Paris includes seven Departments : Yonne,
Seine et Oise, Seine, Seine et Marne, Eure et Loir, Marne, Aube.
THE PRISON VAN.
ALL persons arrested in the department of the Seine and brought
up for trial pass through the Depot. As its name imports, it is a
place for depositing criminals of all sorts. To this place they are
sent in crowds as they are taken up, and there they are divided
into classes. On an average, the Depot receives 150 individuals
Suppose that you are arrested by a policeman and taken to the
station the most respectable of us is liable to this accident if no
one comes to claim you from the commissary before the passing
of " Black Maria," l that handsome, sombre-hued carriage which
resembles a mourning coach with the windows blocked up, you are
shut up in this vehicle and sent on your way to the Depot.
But be of good cheer ; for, otherwise, your lot would have been
far more pitiable : you would have had to march across Paris as
one of a file of blackguards between two rows of armed soldiers.
To-day you have escaped this ignominy by merely taking a quiet
drive in a closed carriage.
The carriage stops on the Quai de 1'Horloge, before one of the
doors of the Court of Cassation reserved for judges only and
opening on to the grand staircase. On each side of this door is an
archway, the one leading to the office of the detective police, the
other to the Depot. The carriage passes beneath that on the left
and sets its burden down at the Permanence Office, which stands
opposite to the Dispensaire, or head office for the supervision of
public women. The Permanence is the ante-room of the Depot.
1 I.e. the prison van, the French slang word for which is "panier a salade."
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Whatever the hour of arrival, one in the afternoon, seven in the
evening, or one in the morning, every one passes through it.
Two chief inspectors of the Prefecture of Police are charged
with the duty of drawing up a brief statement as to the names,
Christian names, ages, birth places, and professions of those who
arrive ; and of entering the whole in the gaol book, the cause of the
THE COUR DU DEPOT.
arrest being duly set forth. ? This time you will not escape the
ordeal of the march in Indian file between two rows of guards ; but
the scene passes in a court-yard, where few people are present.
The prisoners, without any distinction of sex, pass along a low
pavilion which serves as the men's hospital of the Depot. They
emerge into an open space, bounded by ruins on one side and a
celebrated wall on the other, the wall of the Court of the Girondins.
THE DEPOT 219
Lastly they are brought without any ceremony through ordinary
folding doors into the entrance hall of the D^pot.
In front is a lodge with glass windows occupied by the com-
missary on duty and the warders dressed in a sort of exciseman's
uniform. On the right is the men's quarter, on the left the
The commissary reads out the list of names. The prisoners
take off their shoes, and place themselves in the embrasure of a
door, close to the window, to undergo examination by the searcher.
" Raise your trousers undo your belt lift your arms ! " But alt
these precautions do not prevent the knowing ones from concealing
some precious article.
The search ended, the prisoners are passed on to another official,
who takes their measurement and registers their description and
social rank. The description is supplemented, on the following
morning, between eight and twelve o'clock, before M. Berbillon at
the anthropometric department, which will be described later on.
After this last ceremony the prisoner is ready for oral exam-
ination before a judicial officer.
From this time onwards, the official reports concerning the
prisoner will have been sent to the second office of the Prefecture
of Police. In this place his " record " is drawn up, his antecedents
examined, and, in certain cases, a preliminary investigation is made
of the charge brought against him. The head of the above-men-
tioned office will have been able to examine him a right rarely used
and even to set him at liberty, which is rarer still. This official has
also the power to give tickets for the refuge at Nanterre to the infirm
poor and to mendicants who have completed their term in prison.
The record thus drawn up is forwarded by the Prefecture to
the Petit Parquet.
The Petit Parquet is an office occupied by two subordinates of
the Procureur of the Republic. By a brief examination of the
prisoners they find out the exact nature of the charges against
them. They then send them, under the care of a municipal guard,
to the Correctional Court for immediate trial where there is a
prim A facie case, or they remand them for further investigation
before a magistrate.
Attached to the Petit Parquet itself are several judges of
instruction always ready to undertake this duty in easy cases ;
and if an affair is very simple, the statements of the prisoner are
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
quickly dealt with. In difficult cases, the record is sent to a
judge of the Grand Parquet ; the accused has to change his abode,
and leave the Depot definitely for Mazas or La Sante ; when re-
quired for the instruction or for his trial, he will be brought back
to the Palace of Justice, but he will return the same evening to his
new prison, by the Boulevard Diderot or Rue de la Sante.
Heroes like Eyraud, Prado, and Pranzini alone have the
privilege of being kept at the Depot, so that the detective officers
may be better able to keep an eye on them.
The rest are not supposed to
remain there for more than three
days, each room bearing a notice
to this effect :
" Every accused person who has
not been examined during the first
three days of his detention at the
Depot should address a complaint
to the Director-in-Chief."
The Depot is thus only a place
of passage. It was this peculiarity
which suggested to an archi-
tect who had been twitted with
the defects of the building the
smart reply, " What does the bad
arrangement of the Depot matter,
as prisoners do not stay there
long ? "
Nevertheless many improve-
ments have been carried out,
thanks to the Prisons Commission
and to the present director-in-chief of the Depot, M. Meuge.
But there will always be one defect, and that is the want of air
in the underground cells lying beneath that portion of the Palace
which looks out on the Place Dauphine. They were built in 1864.
Let us visit them, beginning with the men's quarter.
YARDS FOR EXERCISE.
From a sketch by P. Renouard.
THE MEN'S QUARTER
A long two-storied gallery of cells like what may be seen in every
prison : it forms a lofty, narrow nave, the walls of which are pierced
THE DP6T 221
for cells uniform in size and lighted by small opaque glass windows,
and might be taken for the skeleton outline of a church as planned
by some ascetic monk.
The cells are monastic in appearance, and arc furnished with a
table and chair ; at the back of each is a sanitary convenience.
At the end of the nave, looking like the choir of a church, is
the common hall known as the Salle des Blouses, a vast barrack-
room with large port-holes which open on to the facade of the
Place Dauphine under the right hand staircase.
It is a fine place in the daytime when there is no one there, and
visitors can amuse themselves by deciphering the golden book of
Parisian criminal celebrities which adorns the wall.
Let us take a few of the inscriptions at random ; in the greater
part the name of the hero is accompanied by the name of the
quarter in which he lives as if it were >a title of nobility : Lc
Z onion de la Manbert ; Dedc de Charonne ; Bobcche Tctedeferde
Montmartre ; Lostrogaud de la Maubert, 1 890.
Some are enigmatic, as : Scnateur des Louis, 491. La grandeur
et rOgnon de I' Eden. Others are melancholy, as : Adjutor de
PEcole dit adieu a ses amis. And everywhere appears the constant
refrain : Mort aux vacJies^
The time to come and see the place is in the evening, after the
last prison van has deposited its burden at the door. There
is an elegant footbridge from which an excellent view may be
obtained of the sweepings of street and hovel that swarm there, an
ever-changing crowd of creatures always the same, heroes of Mazas
or Poissy, hopeless drunkards or humble philosophers addicted to
a free and easy life in the open air and content to depend for sub-
sistence on windfalls of public charity.
Bed-time has come. The planks leaning up against the wall are
pulled down and covered with mattresses to serve as camp beds.
Old men in the first place, and then prisoners who during the day
have acted as attendants find a place thereon. All the rest stretch
themselves on the floor, on mattresses, in the proportion of four men to
one mattress. And when the gas is lowered, a spectator of the scene
would think of regimental life and of his first night as a conscript.
There is a special room set apart for prisoners possessed of
clean linen and dressed in fairly respectable clothes. It has been
christened the Salle des 1 Habits Noirs. The " black coats " are not
1 1 'ache is a. well-known slang word for the police.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
so very much better off than the " blouses." Their hall, which is
on the story above, scarcely receives any air or light, it is very small
and however little crowded, the inmates stifle together in the midst
of a horrible stench. On the days succeeding public holidays in
winter the crowd is much greater. The two halls overflow, and the
prisoners are put in the first available place. Then the scene gives
the spectator another impression ; in the shade, certain corners of
the Depot look like the 'tween-decks of a Transatlantic steamer
crowded with emigrants.
In the afternoon, the prisoners while away the time strolling up
and down in the exercise yards, which are placed in the two
interior courts of the prison, to the right and left of the principal
nave, like the two arms of the cross.
On the right is the corridor which furnishes the common
exercise' yards. On the left, the
corridor which contains those where
prisoners take solitary exercise.
The " solitary " yards of the Depot
arc very like the wild beasts' cages in
the Jardin des Plantes ; but instead of
the open sky, they are surmounted by
a canopy of cast iron, supported by
pillars encircled with rings of steel
spikes like those of the Conciergerie,
but even more forbidding to look
at. There is no verdure to cheer the
eye of the imprisoned animal; nothing
but bare walls, more stifling, closer,
and more monotonous. The prisoner
finds the Depot more cheerless than
the Conciergerie. A network of iron
footbridges and staircases, like a cor-
ner of the Eiffel Tower, overlooks the cages, which thus seem like
so many pits, and enable the warders to see into every one of them.
On one of the boundary walls the visitor remarks a small tower
with a little window -which juts out. This tower contains the
strange spiral staircase which leads inside the Palace of Justice
from the Galerie de Harlay to the Court of Assize. We are in fact
in a sort of well, between the hall of the Assize Court and the hall
of the Correctional Court. The iron canopy is the corridor which
From a sketch by P. Renouard.
unites the two, and is also used as a waiting place for witnesses.
The gallery full of cells which we saw a short time ago is exactly
below the Court of Assize ; the cells on the right hand have for
ceiling the Galerie des Prisonniers, and the common exercise yard
is shut in between this gallery and the buildings of the Court of
Cassation. The common exercise yards differ slightly from the
solitary ones. The common yards are not barred in like cages ;
they are rectangular stone inclosures, opening, by means of little
wicket-gates, on to the same corridor, and forming little courts
where the prisoners pace up
and down like collegians.
There is a separate yard for
old men, another for those of
middle age, another for youths
of from seventeen to twenty,
and another for the black coats.
Another privilege for the well-
The children form the sad-
dest sight of all : they do not
play, but watch one another
with furtive glances ; they
mostly consist of street Arabs
who have run away from home
and taken to thieving for a
livelihood. If any one speaks
to them, they eye him with the
suspicious look of little wild
animals which resent being
tamed ; the more impudent
assume a hypocritical air ; here
and there may be seen heads of little cherubs. There is a collection
of cells reserved for them in the adjoining building. But the space
is so confined that there is rarely room for all. They have a school-
room where one of the warders officiates as teacher, but they do
not make much progress under his care.
At the entrance of the principal nave is a waiting-room, where the
unfortunates who happen to be brought in at night are temporarily
lodged. By its side is the hall where those destined for Mazas
undergo the preliminary search ; they are searched in a state of
INTERIOR OF A YARD FOR EXERCISE.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
nudity ; the men strip themselves to the skin in a kind of con-
fessional box ; the searcher looks through the clothes, examines the
man, and then passes him on into another niche, where he is at
liberty to resume his clothing ; the open space between the two
niches is hidden from the rest of the hall by a curtain.
THE WOMEN'S QUARTER
The women's quarter runs parallel to that of the men, but docs
not communicate with it ; to enter it, the visitor must return to the
main entrance of the Depot.
In organisation it resembles that of the
men. In the centre is a long nave, located
beneath the chamber of Correctional Appeals.
At the entrance are the waiting-room and
searching-room, a little pavilion with white
curtains ; women are never completely
stripped to be searched. At the end, beneath
the Harlay staircase, are the common rooms.
They are two in number. One, reserved for
women with babies, an agglomeration of rags
or alternation of woe-begone faces and
light curls ; the other allotted to prostitutes
arrested for breach of the regulations.
The second is well known from the picture
by Beraud; but the painter has represented the
scene in very rosy colours. In reality, the girls
are all mean-looking, vicious, and debased.
The crowd leaves an impression of pale flesh,
red jerseys, red corsets, and red hair. Occa-
sionally one of the young girls is pretty and has some remains ot
freshness ; but the language is always foul and the gestures obscene.
Even a judge of instruction, hardened as he is to filthy words, does
not readily risk himself in this place. Yet on a little school-
mistress's chair at the back of the hall, immediately beneath the sky-
light, a nun of the order of Mary and Joseph keeps watch unmoved,
as if unconscious of her surroundings, while the pranks of these
jades and their vile remarks form an accompaniment to her prayers.
The women's quarter is not shaped like a cross. The central
nave is only flanked by a narrow court, divided in two by a corridor
A FEMALE PRISONER.
By P. Renouard.
on one side is the exercise ground for female prisoners, on the
other the sisters' garden. This is the garden we viewed from
above on our way to the part of the law courts allotted to the
Order of Advocates ; and now we can see the wooden gallery
where we were formerly stationed from below.
Being closer, we can now distinguish the costume of these good,
simple, loving sisters who may be found in every part of the Depot ;
the cap and white band showing beneath the triple veil in black,,
blue, and white, above the white wimple and the black dress. At the
garden-gate is a little child. A
sister has just dressed it and
is watching it from the wicket
below. The poor little things
do not get much care at the
Depot. There is no asylum
for them. They may be seen
with yellow tickets on their
backs in every corridor, drag-
ging weary steps behind the
sisters or standing moodily
alone ; these children are
foundlings, little creatures who
have been lost or abandoned ;
they are marked like packages,
so as to be known again ; yet
there is perhaps little chance
of any inquiries being ever
made about them. If the
visitor passes by the chapel on
the other side of the garden,
he will come on another spec-
tacle equally fitted to arouse his pity. For here is the women's
infirmary, here are the unhappy beings who are kept in padded
rooms, fit homes of madness.
From the women's quarter there is a staircase leading to the
corridor of the Souriciere. 1 This is a new corridor which, starting
from the men's quarter, brings the Depot into communication
with every part of the Palace of Justice, and gives access by the
way to the Petit Parquet and the Souriciere itself.
1 I.e. . mouse-trap.
A CORRIDOR IN THE WOMEN'S QUARTER.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
THE CORRIDOR OF THE SOURICIERE
This is a corridor built in the form of a tunnel, low-vaulted, like
a sewer. Its advantages are obvious. It enables accused persons
to be conducted to either the Petit Parquet or the Correctional
Court without taking them into the open air. But the loneliness
of the situation must cause some alarm to the guard entrusted with
About half-way, some water and vapour baths are in process of
construction. This is a new departure in the way of luxury ; and
IN THE INFIRMARY. AN EPILEPTIC.
From a drawing by P. Renouard.
this Depot, so denounced, and so badly situated, will soon become
a model establishment. A ray of golden light tries to pierce the
gloom of this gray corridor ; it is the staircase which comes from
the Petit Parquet. Let us see it.
THE PETIT PARQUET
Those who knew the old Petit Parquet will be surprised. In
place of the forbidding vestibule which looked like a damp and
THE DEPOT 227
unhealthy cellar, in place of the dark corridors which led to
wretched little offices reeking with vile odours, there are now lofty,
.airy, and well-lighted halls, opening out on to the Sainte-Chapelle.
Below the new buildings of the Court of Appeal, there is now a
vestibule more luxurious in appearance than the ante-chamber of a
minister. Criminals taken in the act have been daintily provided
We now regain our tunnel-like corridor and follow it to the end,
which brings us to the Souriciere ; it occupies the basement of the
The Souriciere is the waiting-room for prisoners from Mazas.
They are brought thence for examination before the judges of
instruction of the Grand Parquet, for trial before the Correctional
Court, or for transportation to the house of correction at Nanterre.
Whence comes this name of Souriciere ? Possibly from some
.ancient dungeons, situated near the Sainte-Chapelle, and famed for
the swarms of mice which they contained. Citizen Beauregard,
who was imprisoned there, tells how he had to keep his face covered
all night to save his nose and ears, and how his trousers were com-
pletely eaten away. Possibly from the very appearance of the cells,
Avhich with their doors chequered in little squares look exactly like
mouse-traps. For this very reason the Souriciere has also been
styled the " Thirty-six squares." It is not a pleasant abode. The
cells are very narrow ; they are only lighted by the little square
panes of opaque glass in the door ; and they have no ventilation
save through one of these thirty-six squares which is left open,
Inside the stench is pestilential. And this is all. To leave men,
with the terrors of an examination or a sentence hanging over them,
in these boxes the whole day is a reprehensible and useless refine-
ment of torture.
Some alterations have recently been made at the Souriciere.
The reader will naturally suppose that these have been in the way
of sanitary improvement.
Nothing of the kind.
The authorities have merely built a number of new cells, as
228 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
cruel as the old ones, in order to unite the old Souriciere to the
corridor leading from the Depot. And the reader should remember
that the guests of the Souriciere arrive in the morning from nine to
eleven; that they only depart between six and seven in the even-
ing ; and that, in the meantime, they receive no refreshment. It
is a wonder how any of them survive. Accused persons who happen
"THE THIRTY-SIX SQUARES.
to be acquitted are compelled to return to Mazas, like their comrades,
to have their names formally erased from the gaol book, after which
they are at liberty to leave. But the prospect of liberty assuages
their troubles, and they do not much mind the final ride with the
others in "Black Maria."
Those amenable to the Court of Assize and the other prisoners
of the Conciergerie escape the horrors of the Souriciere. They leave
the Conciergerie by an underground passage ; this runs behind the
barred chamber of the vestibule and joins a spiral staircase which
gives access to the Court of Assize. This same staircase leads to
;the Anthropometric Department.
CORRIDOR OF THE SOURIC! K.RK.
THE ANTHROPOMETRIC DEPARTMENT
IF you are an interested visitor, you must first mount an incal-
culable number of steps, the ascent lying through a kind of massive
pigeon-house; then after taking five or six turns in different direc-
tions, you will arrive in a little waiting-room. It is plainly furnished
with benches and rows of pegs. You now receive two commands :
the first is to strip yourself, the second to hold your tongue.
But we can leave this staircase to those whom it may concern,
and, if you like, take the road appropriated to free visitors, that is
to say the new gallery, which extends from the Sainte-Chapelle to
the vestibule of the Court of Assize. Almost in front of the stately
hall where the counsellors of the First Chamber of the Court of
Appeal will soon come for their diurnal slumbers, you see a plain-
looking door, and then a stone staircase which you ascend, and r
when you have reached the topmost steps, you can read, printed
above another little door painted brown, the words:
ANTHROPOMETRIE ET PHOTOGRAPHIE JUDICIAIRES
Let us enter this sanctuary.
The high priest is a young and kindly savant, M. Alphonse
Bertillon, creator of the anthropometric service ; the Government
having, in return for his assistance, appointed him chief ruler of the
THE ANTIIROPOMETRIC DEPARTMENT 231
M. Bertillon was struck by the insufficiency of the methods
hitherto employed to establish the identity of habitual criminals.
It was obvious to him that the thing needed was not so much a law
for dealing with habitual criminals as the power of applying it.
But how was the habitual criminal l to be discovered when he
concealed his identity ? The latter knows that, having already
undergone a certain number of convictions, he will be liable, if con-
victed again, to transportation for life to a penal colony. His
course is therefore clear ; to try and pass himself off as some one
else, to assume an imaginary civil status, and to get for himself a
new and clean character under a false name so true it is that
some men will believe anything !
Then begins the struggle between justice and this unknown,
who, out of malic? will choose in preference a common name,
very widely spread, such as Martin, Bernard, or Duval. But the
criminal records, ranged in alphabetical order at the Prefecture of
Police, possess under the names of Martin, Bernard, and Duval
piles of notices five or six hundred yards in height ; to find the
exact details relative to the alleged Martin, Bernard, or Duval will
be almost impossible, or at any rate extremely difficult.
Suppose that the man in question has suffered three or four
convictions under his real name, then if he chose to take an alias
there was no rapid or precise way of recognising him. The autho-
rities groped their way in darkness.
At last Bertillon appeared.
Turning to account his scientific knowledge, he came to the
conclusion that it was possible to find a criterion of identity, based
on the principle of measurement of the body, it being an established
fact that, out of ioo,OOO individuals, there was not one whose head
and chief members were of the same dimensions.
The young anthropologist's attention was chiefly directed to
the parts of the body least susceptible of variation during the
period of full growth. He was led to take as his data the length
of the head, measured from the concavity at the root of the nose
to the occiput ; its breadth, measured from one parietal to the
other ; the length of the left middle finger, that of the left
foot (the members of the body on the right side being liable
to exceptional development under the action of physical toil),
the length of the ear, the length of the forearm, the measurement
232 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
with the arms stretched out cross-wise, and lastly the colour of
These data taken, the point was to find some metho'd of classi-
fication for the pile of individual records which would encumber
the pigeon-holes of the anthropometric department as soon as it
began to act. For the efficacy of the system depended on its
prompt applicability. Each person arrested for an offence at
common law was to be passed under the measuring post and com-
pass of the anthropometer. Their number can be readily imagined ;
thieves, forgers, murderers, swindlers, and vagabonds innumerable
cross the door of the Depot every day. What method was to be
adopted to simplify inquiry ? M. Bertillon, who is a man of
essentially simple mind in the scientific sense of the word, re-
solved to have recourse to a system of elimination, after having
established three great general classes, each distinguished by the
stature of the individuals measured, who were to be divided into
short, middle-sized, and tall. Suppose that, at any given time, the
anthropometric department possesses 90,000 records of individuals
who have been measured, or, to coin a word, Bertillonised. These
have been divided into three classes, each containing 30,000. The
first comprises persons of short stature, measuring from I metre to
i metre 60 mm. in height ; 1 the second comprises those of middle
stature from I metre 61 mm. to I metre 70 mm. ; and the third
comprises those of tall stature from I metre 71 mm. to 2 metres.
This is the first division.
Each of these three classes is subdivided always by threes
into three groups of 10,000 according as the measure of the head
from the root of the nose to the occiput is small, medium, or large.
With the third subdivision these 10,000 individuals are classed
in three groups according to the length of the left middle finger :
small, medium, or large.
The three classes in the next subdivision only comprise 1,000
subjects each, divided according to the length of the left foot.
The fifth subdivision is divided into three groups of 300, classed
according to the dimensions of the forearm ; and we arrive at
the last subdivision, which only comprises three sections of 100
subjects each, divided according to the length of the little finger.
Thus unity is reached at last.
1 One French metre = 3-281 English feet. A centimetre (indicated by "mm.") is
the hundredth part of a metre.
i. Height. 2. Stretch of Arms. 3. Half-length. 4. Length of Head. 5. Width of Head. 6. Right Ear.
7. Left Foot. 8. Left Middle Finger. 9. Left Forearm.
THE ANTHROPOMETRIC DEPARTMENT
Now, suppose that out of 90,000 individuals there happen to be
two equal to one another in height, length of the head, of the left
middle finger, of the left foot, the forearm and the little ringer a
thing which happens once in 100,000 cases here would still be
100,000 chances against one against these two individuals having
an iris the same colour.
Consequently, when a subject, male or female, has been measured
by the anthropomctric department, and his description noted on a
ANTHROPOMETRIC SERVICE PHOTOGRAPHY.
separate record, it is enough, should he be arrested again, to again
take his exact measurement in order to find his first description in
a few minutes, and so his first record.
When it is remembered that, besides this careful record, two
photographs are taken of every subject, it will be readily understood
that any confusion is impossible.
Now that we know the mechanism of the anthropometric
service, we may enter the apartments allotted to it.
The morning, especially from eight to eleven o'clock, is the time
236 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
when they present most animation, as, after twelve o'clock, every
person under arrest has to be ready for the judge of instruction.
But from the earliest hour the spectacle is full of interest. The
waiting-room is crowded by ragged creatures, with stubbly hair and
unshorn beards. It looks like the common d res singr- room of a
cheap bath-house or a general review of the beggars of- a district-
There are eight municipal guards present to see that obedience is
paid, to the regulations : speed in the work of stripping and silence
in the ranks. Do not, however, believe that justice, so careful in
the search for truth, goes so far as to impose an official uniform on
its ordinary clients ; and when a stern voice bids subject No. I
come forward, it is in a simple but suitable dress that he presents
himself for measurement.
If he has already undergone the ordeal after a previous arrest,
and is willing to speak the truth about his previous record, he is
But there is nothing interesting here. The thing to note is the
certainty with which the chief of the department is able in a few
minutes to confound the imposture of this other ragged scoundrel
with cadaverous face, and evil look, who, grinding his teeth, declares
that his name is Dumont, that-he has never been convicted, and that
he is the victim of an abominable error of the police.
He knows, nevertheless, that a year, or perhaps two years ago,
he was brought before this very same machine, and that his head
has been measured by the legs of this very same compass which the
assistant is now applying to his forehead and temples. But he per-
sists in denying this, being ignorant of the marvellous efficacy of
the Bertillon system. " They measure such a lot here," says he to
himself, " that they will never find me out."
Criminals have no idea, either, to what exactness of detail the
classification of the department has been brought.
He is now measured lengthwise and crosswise. He passes
under the movable peg so that his stature may be ascertained. He
stands on the wooden stool to have his foot measured. Carefully
made instruments take the dimensions of his ear, his finger, and his
forearm. This completed, an official, after studying the results
arrived at, goes to a little pigeon-hole, and takes therefrom a square
of cardboard, on which is a record of fifteen characteristics, sup-
ported by the addition of a photograph. He returns with it, and
standing before the so-called Dumont, says to him :
THE ANTHROPOMETRIC DEPARTMENT 237
" You still declare that your name is Dumont ? "
" Most decidedly."
" That you were born ? "
"At Marseilles, in 1854."
" That you have never been convicted ? "
The official carefully scrutinises him. He assures himself, from a
comparison with the photograph before his eyes, that there can be
no doubt of the identity, and he then makes the following little
" You are a liar ! Your name is not Dumont You are
called Tavernier, Christian name Adolphe ; you were born at
Pontoise on June 2nd, 1851 ; you have already suffered four con-
victions, two for theft and two for swindling."
The wretched man stands crushed and dumb-foundered.
The inquisitor adds : " Guards, raise this man's sleeve ; on his
left arm he ought to have a figure tattooed in blue, representing a
heart pierced by an arrow, and surmounted by a cap of liberty."
The guard lifts the sleeve, and the tattoo marks appear to the
consternation of the culprit, who would like to bury himself in the
The man's antecedents are forthwith noted on the police reports
relative to the case in hand ; and with this full record before him
the judge will know the character of the person with whom he has
The visitor will note the comfort and convenience which marks
all the appointments of the anthropometric department ; it has
been arranged with a method and order which are above praise.
On the top story are the rooms for photography. The
manipulation of the lenses and plates is so quick that proofs
can be taken in a moment, without interruption and without
delay, the department having two ends in view ; simplicity and
Cases, however, arise when M. Bertillon's clients refuse to let
the photographer take their portraits. To escape this decisive
proof, they wriggle about, move backwards and forwards, refuse
to approach the seat placed before the instrument. Stratagem
has then to take the place of persuasion.
At each of the four corners of the studio is an instantaneous
photographic apparatus, concealed behind little boxes which con-
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
tain plates. A photographer takes up, as if by chance, the box
which masks one of these instruments. He pretends to look for a
proof in it, and cries out :
" But, by the by, we have your photograph here ! "
The trick always succeeds. These words make enough im-
pression on the person interested to fix him to his place if only
ANTHROPOMETRIC SERVICE MEASUREMENT.
for one or two seconds ; and this is time enough for the hidden
operator to do his work. And Justice possesses at once a portrait
of the victim against his will.
And now, with all things marching to perfection, and science
bringing the treasures it discovers nearer to us day by day
THE ANTHROPOMETRIC DEPARTMENT.
can it be supposed that the police will not draw further profit
from their inventions ? The time will come, perhaps, when it will
reproduce your words, your gestures, even your very thoughts. . . . ,
in which case it had better take for device the saying of Alphonse
Bertillon himself, a truly " anthropometric "jest :
"We must remember to observe a measure in all things."
THE DETECTIVE POLICE l
AT the end of a long, dark corridor, not far from the Advo-
cates' Library, is the office of M. Goron, head of the Detective
Police, whose duties are well known the discovery and arrest of
The creation of the Detective Police dates from 1832. Be-
ginning with a staff of 31 men, its numbers were increased, in
1848, to 1 60. At the present day it includes more than 300 men,
exclusive of the superior officers. The private soldier in this
battalion holds the title of inspector ; he has for superior officers
the brigade inspector and the chief inspector.
The first head of the Detective Police was M. Allard. He held
the office from November I5th, 1832, to December I5th, 1848. After
him came Perrot, Canler, Balestrino, Collet, Tenaille, Claude, Jacob,
Mace, who held his post from February i/th, 1879 to March 3ist,
1884, when he retired on a pension.
M. Kuehn only remained for a short time at the head of this
department. He was succeeded by M. Taylor, under whom the
Prefect of Police appointed a deputy.
This deputy, M. Goron, formerly a commissary of police, was
appointed head of the Detective Service on November I4th, 1887,
in succession to M. Taylor, who is now public prosecutor at the
Court of Simple Police.
M. Goron is a Knight of the Legion of Honour. He is about
forty years old. It has not been left for us to sound his praises.
The head of the Detective Police has friends everywhere, both at
1 La Police de Si'trete.
THE DETECTIVE POLICE
the Prefecture of Police and at the Parquet, where he is held in
the very highest esteem.
M. Goron is a man ot rare intelligence and keenness ; in the
exercise of functions at once difficult and delicate he has shown
himself to be gifted with the most perfect tact ; and to these
precious qualities he joins courage, loyalty, and courtesy.
Those who have the good luck to enter M. Goron's private
room will find it a veritable museum ; by the side of a superb
collection of weapons is a large frame filled with the photographs
of a crowd of celebrated criminals.
M. GORON, HEAD OF THE DETECTIVE POLICE.
The members of the service employed at the offices are principally
occupied in receiving and registering notes and reports on matters
of justice (of which there are about 150 to 160 a day) ; in drawing
up and despatching statements required by the administrative
and judicial authorities; in making abstracts relative to the position
of all individuals sent to the Depot by the police commissaries of
Paris or the suburbs ; lastly, they are in constant correspondence,
by letter or telegram, with the provinces or foreign countries.
The agents of the special brigade, composed of an inspector-
general, M. Jaume, four brigadiers, a sub-brigadier, and twenty
242 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
inspectors, undertake important missions of special delicacy or
danger, both at home and abroad. The special brigade searches
for and arrests great criminals, those who perpetrate vast financial
or commercial frauds, &c.
The section for reports and warrants 1 comprises a chief inspector,
a brigadier, and forty inspectors, whose attention is devoted to
researches, inquiries, and investigations of every kind.
The brigade for warrants is more especially occupied in tracking
out criminals with a view to their immediate apprehension ; that
for reports is chiefly engaged in providing information.
The latter body having to draw up long reports by which the
judge of instruction is often induced to declare a person hitherto
merely suspected as primd facie liable on a criminal charge are
chosen from among the better educated class. They collect the
information required by the public prosecutor at twenty-four hours'
notice in the case of offenders caught in the act, and brought before
a criminal court for immediate trial.
A brigadier, who acts as cashier of the department, a clerk and
ten inspectors form the section of requisitions. Their chief duty is
to carry out the requisitions of the public prosecutor ; to take in
execution persons who have become State debtors from having to
pay fine or costs, &c. This body of men brings into the State
coffers every year some 70,000 or 80,000 francs which, without
their aid, the Treasury would regard as bad debts.
The Mont-de-Piete brigade only consists of a sub-brigadier
and three inspectors, charged with the supervision of pawn-shops.
One of the most important brigades is that of " the public
streets." It consists of a brigadier, four sub-brigadiers, and thirty-
four inspectors, commanded by Chief Inspectors Gaillarde and
Rossignol. The members of this brigade, known as the flying
brigade^ have no special duty.
They stroll about on the chance of finding employment. It is, in
fact, by walking up and down the most crowded streets, by visiting
banks and churches, by keeping an eye on the starting-places of
omnibuses and on race-courses, that they manage to run down and
catch in the very act certain individuals whose movements have
struck them as suspicious.
Their duty is exceedingly difficult, and to obtain success they
need special aptitudes. These agents are the terror of pick-
1 La section des notes ct mandats.
THE DETECTIVE POLICE
pockets, roulottiers, voleurs a rAmericaine, a la tire, au poivrier,
cambrioleurs?- in one word, of the numerous varieties of thieves
whom they are instructed to look out for.
As to the " morals" police, consisting of thirty-two agents, it is
well known that their duty is to carry out the public raids on
women of improper character which have so often provoked the
protests of the press, and to look after the houses licensed for
Lastly the central or permanent section is the largest of all ; it
comprises a chief inspector, a brigadier, seven sub-brigadiers, and
1 24 inspectors. Some of these agents have fixed posts in'the offices,
at the central administrative department ; others remain ready in
case they should be required for urgent service by the police com-
missaries ; others are on duty in certain financial establishments,
the Treasury, the Bank of France, the Stock Exchange, &c. Those
who are not occupied as above remain at the detective office, ready
for any emergency.
They have many functions ; they protect persons who are
threatened with murder or violence ; they are charged with the
duty of conducting prisoners into the town in order to confront
them with different people, &c. Lastly they collect information in
cases where it is urgently required by the Government or the
1 These are all slang words. A ronlottier steals from vans or carts; voter a I'Ameri-
caine is a general term for the confidence trick. La tire is a phrase for pocket picking ;
a voleur an poivrier robs drunken men (poivriers). A camlrioleur obtains entry into
apartments and carries off the ornaments.
JUDGES OF INSTRUCTION *
LET us make a bow to the judge of instruction.
There is no business more difficult than his.
His functions and the sphere in which he exercises them are of
the most extensive and unlimited description, the law having but
loosely defined and regulated his powers. The judge of instruc-
tion should leave no stone unturned that may lead to a discovery
of the truth ; he must prosecute the most careful researches ; he
must pursue the most trifling clue ; he must verify every fact ; he
must direct investigations and seizures ; order examinations by
experts ; summon and hear witnesses ; interrogate persons accused
of crime ; and make play with the whole arsenal of orders and
warrants to appear, produce, impound, and arrest.
It is needful, therefore, not only that the judge of instruction
should possess wide legal knowledge, but that he should also be
endowed with accuracy, insight, decision, adroitness, patience, and
good-temper. He should be astonished neither at the loftiest
sentiments nor the most criminal ideas, neither at exhibitions of
virtue nor subtleties of vice. Nothing ought to move, much less
1 See Chapter I., p 4.
JUDGES OF INSTRUCTION
The judge of instruction ought to possess a well-tempered
mind and an iron frame ; he should have moral force and physical
health, a clear head, and a perfect digestion.
At night, in the midst of the deepest sleep, the judge of instruc-
tion is liable to be suddenly aroused by intelligence of an important
arrest or an urgent interrogatory. And when he enters his office,
between one and two in the afternoon, he may either have to hurry
away the next minute on some distant business, or be detained
there till eleven o'clock at night.
At Paris the judges of instruction, to the number of twenty-
eight, hold their sittings on the three upper stories of the Palace
of Justice which lie directly above the three corridors of the Cor-
rectional Chambers, with the exception of two of these magistrates,
who are stationed at the Petit Parquet.
To reach their offices, the
visitor must ascend several
pairs of stairs, and make his
way into an enormous hall, of
great length and rectangular
shape, lighted by windows
which open on to the court
of the Sainte-Chapelle.
He will first have to state
his business to an office clerk,
in a dark blue uniform, the
copper-gilt buttons of which are kept bright from constant rubbing
against benches and wood-work. This clerk is usually seated
at a desk which looks like a stone washing-stand, on one of the
sides of which a gas lamp, with a common-looking green shade,
stands like a flag.
There, with a dignified air, more supercilious than that of the
judge under whom he acts, the office clerk receives from the nume-
rous witnesses cited the summonses which explain their attendance.
Occasionally the subaltern identifies himself with his superior.
" In what case do you appear, sir ? "
" The Malthassin case."
"Very well, it won't take long; you know we knock off" our
instructions pretty briskly."
Every day in the week an immense number of people of every
class, beggars and millionaires, cobblers and members of the
246 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Institute, cross and re-cross each other in the waiting-rooms.
Here a cook in a white apron talks lovingly to a municipal guard ;
there, with their arms folded in the attitude of blind men waiting
for alms, the witnesses of some accident bide their time, leaning
against the wall, and fixing their eyes on vacancy. One of them
sighs and keeps looking at his watch with significant nods of his
head ; another reads his newspaper through and through, from the
date at the beginning to the printer's name at the end ; another,
possessed by an irresistible desire for movement, walks up and
down, counting his paces, and feverishly biting the points of his
Suddenly the electric bell rings, the clerk rushes off ; eyes are
raised, and with neck stretched out towards the door by which the
clerk is to return, each witness waits anxiously to hear what name
will be called out.
The clerk reappears, and solemnly delivers his message.
"In the Malthassin case, the judge of instruction cannot hear
any one more to-day; you will return to-morrow."
A deep stupefaction falls upon every one, and the hubbub of
departure drowns the curses of the irritable and the grumblings of
The accused alone does not wait.
Let us follow him along the side corridor with a municipal
sniard on either side of him.
A door opens before him, on the lintel of which appears a square
copper plate engraved in large letters with the name of the judge
whose office it is.
The room is small ; at the back, close to the windows, stand
two mahogany desks side by side, one for the judge of instruction,
the other for his registrar. On the left or the right is a second
door opening into a smaller room used for receiving friends or
confidential communications. By the judge's side is the button of
an electric bell, connecting his office with the clerk's lobby, or with
the guardroom of the Petit Parquet ; some offices are provided
with speaking-tubes. Sometimes the examinations or the deposi-
tions are interrupted by a little knock at the door. It is a muni-
cipal guard with a note, or an advocate in his robes come to ask
for leave to communicate with a prisoner, or a clerk with a visiting
At last the day's work is over, the prison van has carried its
JUDGES OF INSTRUCTION 247
customers for the day to the various prisons -of Paris ; then, be-
tween four and five o'clock, the judges of instruction come forth,
grave, sad, or smiling, according as they happen to have extracted
confessions, failed to do so, or obtained some hope of eventual
Behind them, after having only waited to arrange the papers
and turn out the gas, comes a train of very solemn personages.
Let us bow; these are the office clerks who are passing.
And now let us see the magistrate at work.
A crime has been committed and the perpetrator remains un-
The first question is to discover this criminal, who, more
cunning than a beast of the chase, has doubled again and again,
crossed his tracks, and baffled all the dogs of justice in his efforts
to avoid capture.
The judge of instruction then investigates with the greatest
possible care, with the most minute attention, everything which in
the ordinary or exceptional habits of the quarry may furnish a
clue. Papers, letters, trifling articles, be it only a pin found in
some peculiar position, are examined with the most anxious
precautions. Persons who have had relations with the victim are
heard and their declarations tested.
The author of the crime, or rather the presumed author, is
found ; but he shuffles and denies ; the proofs are not convincing
enough to enable any one to affirm his guilt as certain. What
is wanted is an admission. But how is the judge of instruction to
obtain it ? The public has heard many tales of the mysteries of
instruction. Every day we are reminded of what has been called
the handcuff trick, the " Handcuff him, guards /" which has become
a legend at the Palace ; of episodes like the telephone incident in
the Wilson case ; l then there is the celebrated blank sheet of
paper which the magistrate holds in his hand, declaring it to
contain depositions of the most damning kind, the statement that
an accomplice has been arrested and confessed all ; then, that no
declaration has been made, &c., &c.
It would of course be foolish to deny that all these methods
have been put in practice : but let us hasten to add that such a
1 The world has not yet forgotten this extraordinary incident. M. Vigneau, in charge
of the instruction in the decorations scandal, telephoned to a purchaser of the riband of
the Legion of Honour, passing himself off as M. Wilson.
248 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
case is a great exception. Those who employ these methods are
generally young judges of instruction, who are wanting in any
deep knowledge of men and things. They are, in any case,
severely denounced by old magistrates, who have grown gray in
the harness. These latter insist on the most perfect good faith in the
modes of action employed ; they object to trickery, which is more
and more falling into disuse ; and they hold that, even in the most
hardened, there is always a weak point, a defect in the brazen
armour, which it is their duty to discover.
And thus it is to be regretted that the delicate work of
preliminary investigation should be sometimes confided to deputy
judges, who, despite the best intentions in the world, have not
sufficient liberty of action, even if we leave out of sight the state
of dependence in which they stand to the Ministry of Justice, and
the small amount of experience they possess.
One of the formalities of instruction on which the public looks
with much suspicion is the dictation of the depositions by the
judge, who makes a summary of them, which is taken down by the
registrar to form the record.
Often, in the course of a trial, a prisoner or a witness will be
heard to say that what is put into his mouth by le curieux, as the
judge of instruction is called in the slang of the criminal class,
does not represent the statement really made.
But there is no real cause for objection ; on the one hand,
credit for fairness and honourable feeling should be allowed to the
judge, who in the vast majority of cases has nothing to gain by
purposely distorting the facts ; on the other, there is the presence
of the registrar, who also hears the depositions, and is thus able
to check the correctness of the statement dictated to him.
All one can say is, that the judge of instruction, when per-
suaded of the guilt of the man before him, is liable sometimes to
give a little too much colour to an admission. But this is rare, and
too much stress should not be laid on it ; we have said " too much
colour," let us say "too deep a shade" and we shall be nearer the
The accused person or the witness, moreover, always has his
deposition read over to him. If, therefore, he thinks that what he
said has not been properly taken down, he can always refuse to
sign the paper.
JUDGES OF INSTRUCTION 249
A FEW SPECIMENS
It is impossible to speak of the judge of instruction without
devoting a short sketch to M. Guillot.
He is stout, short, and thick-set, with strong bristling eye-brows.
His face is lit up by two lively little eyes that drill you through
like a gimlet, and will gauge you any man in five minutes. Such
is the magistrate who, on many accounts will be remembered as
the type of the modern judge of instruction. He is a glutton for
work, and has written a book, Paris qui Souffre, touching as a wail
of pain and misery. He will probably retain his post for life,
owing to the distinction with which he fills it, and his want of
ambition for any other. And, with all this, M. Guillot devotes his
few spare hours to philosophic studies which have opened to him
the doors of the Institute.
Those whose idea of the judge of instruction is derived from
penny periodicals will be astonished to hear that M. Guillot passes
the greater part of his afternoons in examining children, poor little
wretches abandoned by their parents, or guilty of some petty-
theft ; in trying to awaken their slumbering conscience ; and in
doing his best to place them under charitable care, so that they
may be preserved from the house of correction, the normal school
of crime, as it has been called. To him, in fact, together with
President Flandin and a young advocate, Maitre Rollet, known
familiarly as the St. Vincent de Paul of the Law Courts, we owe
the repeal of the old abominable laws relating to children ; the
brutal and hurried committal to prison, without any consideration
of the child's circumstances, or appeal to feelings of compassion.
But very different appears M. Guillot when he finds himself
face to face with a criminal of mark. The majority of our
criminal heroes have passed long days in his room at the Palace :
Campi, Prado, Pranzini, and many others. If they have not all
left it unmasked, they have all come out subdued.
M. Guillot's plan is first of all to begin by analysing the
character of the man who is brought before him. The study of
the crime charged will only come in the second place, when the
judge will be able to interpret the act in accordance with the
nature of the individual, now thoroughly brought to light.
M. Guillot undertakes this work of analysis with extraordinary
250 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
zest. In vain does his subject shrink back and twist about ; vainly
does he coil himself up like a cat who thinks she cannot be caught
because she hides her ears ; in vain does he endeavour to weave
together a logical skein of falsehood. Fascinated by a searching
tongue which plucks the truth from his heart, a day must event-
ually come when he will say to this man who divines everything :
" Well, yes, you have discovered my secret ; " and he will drop his
mask, like an amateur beaten in a fencing bout.
Sometimes when he does not feel himself sufficiently master of
the situation, M. Guillot will call to his aid 'the witness generally
a woman who alone has the power to extort a confession.
The reader will remember the case of Marchandon, who a few
years ago murdered a widow lady in the Rue de Seze.
Marchandon, who had been in service and committed a murder
in Paris, was living at Compiegne as a man of small independent
means with a mistress named Blin, whom he passed off as his wife.
He cultivated an orchard, he was a candidate for office, and he had
called on the municipal council to suppress a disorderly house,
the neighbourhood of which shocked his virtue. Brought before
M. Guillot, after the assassination of Madame Cornet, Marchandon
obstinately refused to make confession. The judge saw that he
could wring nothing from this wretch ; he summoned Jane Blin,
and, calculating rightly on the indignation of the woman, who was
furious at having, though without knowing it, lived with an
assassin, he placed the pair face to face with one another.
Read over again the report of this meeting ! The fierce and
selfish character of the woman comes out with an astonishing
clearness. Before her the man is shame-faced, crushed, and over-
come. by the love which he still feels for her.
JANE BLIN. Wretch, it is on your account that I have been
brought here. You have deceived me ; without my knowing it
you have involved me in your criminal existence. It was you
alone who murdered Madame Cornet.
MARCHANDON. No, no. It is Anatole !
JANE BLIN. I saw you after the murder. You were
depressed. You kept saying that you wished you were dead.
You were looking out of the window all the time. Come now }
confess you are trying to pass your crime off on another. You
did it all.
MARCHANDON. Well ! Yes, it is I alone !
JUDGES OF INSTRUCTION 251
JANE BLIN. Tell the whole truth.
MARCHANDON. Leave me alone ; make an end of this.
Let them kill me at once !
JANE BLIN. They will kill you soon enough. No fear of
that. But you must tell all, so that people may know that I was
your first victim. How did you kill this woman ?
MARCHANDON. In her room.
JANE BLIN. She was asleep ; you must have woke
MARCHANDON (despairingly}. But, since it is Anatole (an
imaginary person invented by Marchandoii).
JANE BLIN. And your braces, which were found by the side
of the corpse ?
MARCHANDON. It must be Anatole who put them there, so
as to ruin me.
JANE BLIN. Be quiet then ! This was the reason of your trips
to Paris, here is the secret of the letters you used to receive from
great ladies, whose lover you pretended to be. Repent, wretch ;
repent. If I have lived with an assassin, let him at least ask pardon
of God. Come now, how did it happen ?
MARCHANDON. I had the kitchen key. I got in that way.
I took a large knife which was lying on the dresser. I made my
way into the room. Madame Cornet had taken off her clothes,
put on her nightdress, and got into bed. Then I showed myself
and she saw me. . . . she screamed with fright. . . . she rose
up ! ... she tried to escape. ... I seized her. ... I struck
JANE BLIN. This is the truth ?
MARCHANDON. Oh, yes !
JANE BLIN. Swear it by the head of your mother.
MARCHANDON. I swear it !
Three months later Marchandon was guillotined on the square
of La Roquette.
Another judge of instruction, well known to every newspaper
reader, is M. Laurent Atthalin. With his flowing hair brushed
back from his forehead, his long and carefully trimmed beard,
M. Laurent Atthalin is the model of a polite judge. He sends
his man to the scaffold with all the formality of a gentleman
of birth. Before him have passed Euphrasie Mercier, M. Wilson,
the members of the Patriotic League, the Russian Nihilists, as well
252 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
as Turpin, Tripone, and the other persons involved in the recent
Lastly comes M. Doppfer, from Alsace. Patriotic and con-
scientious, he is honesty itself, and pursues his task without noise
or display, but at the same time with the steadiness of a pack-
horse, which moves slowly, but never stops to take rest on the
Eyraud and Gabrielle Bompard learned something of this.
THE PROCUREUR AND HIS STAFF
THE judges of instruction take action at the call of the Parquet,
and it is only in compliance with requisitions from the Parquet that
they determine the fate of an accused person by a declaration that
there is no ground for prosecution or an order sending his case
before the competent jurisdiction.
What is the Parquet ? A singular word, which in the sanc-
tuary of justice makes one think of the Temple of Finance. 1
The Parquet is simply the Procureur with his deputies. The
Procureur dominates all this little world ; and he settles himself
questions of some importance by directing prosecutions or casting
a veil over certain disgraceful scandals.
At the moment at which we write the head of the Parquet
in the Paris Courts of First Instance, is M. Banaston, who
succeeded M. Bernard. He is a distinguished magistrate, who,
when he was Advocate-General in the Assize Court, showed marked
skill as a speaker, and is now esteemed for courtesy and tact in the
exercise of his official duties. 2
1 The word parquet is regularly used to denote the chief meeting place of brokers in
the Paris Stock Exchange. It is also used as equivalent to Ministtre Public, explained
above, Ch. I. p. 2 of this work.
- Since the above was written M. Banaston has died ; he has been succeeded in his
office of Procureur at the Paris Courts of First Instance by M. Roulier
A CORNER OF THE REPORTERS' BENCH.
ROUND ABOUT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
THE PALACE DOCTOR
FOR many years, it might be said for many centuries, persons
who came to the law courts on business, whether for themselves or
others, and were suddenly taken ill there, persons who were seized
with a fit in the overheated Courts, and would-be desperadoes who
made classical attempts at suicide with the clerk's penknife in the
presence of the judge of instruction, had nothing to keep them
from departing this life but the insufficient attentions of the Court
ushers, office clerks, and municipal guards on duty. No regular
practitioner was attached to the judicial establishment as holding a
" post of succour " ; when necessary, a doctor from the neighbour-
hood, a stranger to the great judicial family, had to be called in.
There was something particularly shocking in this both for
judges and advocates ; it was impossible to die en famille ; it was
a stranger who came to give you the last consolations of
The Council-General for the department of the Seine saw the
magnitude of this void, and resolved to fill it up. The office of
" physician of the Palace " was created, and the present holder, the
amiable Doctor Charles Floquet, was specially appointed to look
ROUND ABOUT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
after the indispositions of the legal community. Dr. Floquet at
once understood what was wanted by the members of the great
family which he was entering. What the Palace of Justice required
was not a doctor of the old school, solemn and long-worded, always
disposed to make silent examinations or formidable soundings,
always ready to write prescriptions stuffed with technical terms.
No, what was wanted was a man who, while fully qualified so
far as medical attainments went, should conceal his professional
characteristics under an affable exterior and should be completely
one of the family.
THE I'ALACE DOCTOR.
An advocate or a judge overcome by the heat of Court needed
a doctor who could make him smile ; the accused who made an
attempt at suicide needed a doctor who, while bandaging his wounds
with a light strip of gummed taffetas, would remind him that ink
erasers are made to scratch paper not human skin.
In a word, the Palace of Justice wanted a man who, in case of
need, would be able to revive a patient by cordial words, rather
than by a cordial without words.
Doctor Floquet has so well understood the importance of this
256 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
part of his duties that he has employed his leisure time people do
not die in the law courts ever)' day in legal studies. He is a
licentiate in law, if you please ; and a violet riband, once rect-
angular, but now grown round shaped, is fastened to his button-
hole ; he has an engaging manner and a pleasant voice. No one
knows better than the Palace doctor how to soothe with a word the
anxiety of lawyers troubled by coughs or colds. As he passes by
he whispers a recommendation of some powder to be taken in hot
milk without appearing to attach any importance to the case ; the
invalid is reassured and his ailment disappears.
The day, a distant one we may hope, will come when others
will occupy the place now held by Doctor Floquet. But it will
be no discredit to them if we declare that none will ever surpass
him in the qualifications of his office, or find on their rounds more
friendly hands held out to them. Doctor Floquet, for the due
performance of his duties, has to be constantly on the move from
one part of the Palace to another ; certain people, seeing his room
door nearly always shut, imagine his office to be a sinecure. To
these we offer the following curious statistics of his services. In
1890 there were at the law courts :
Cardiac affections 9
Cases of syncope and vertigo 42
Cases of hemorrhage 12
Affections of the respiratory organs (acute and chronic laryngitis,
spasms of the glottis, &c.) 29
Affections of the digestive organs 21
Cases of cerebral congestion 9
Nervous attacks 1 1
Mental affections 3
Luxation of the shoulder t
Luxation of the elbow I
Wound penetrating the chest (attempt at suicide) I
Wounds and various accidents 16
ROUND ABOUT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 257
Altogether 255 cases . . . and not one death ! This is the
bright side of this little account.
COMMANDANT LUNEL AND HIS GUARDS
The guard attached to the Palace of Justice reminds one of
the National Guard. He has the air of a family man. One look
at him is enough to tell you that he is not troubled by barrack
regulations or constant parades ; and that the thin soup and sorry
rations which the soldier of the line has to put up with are, for
him, replaced by a substantial dinner looked after by an attentive
housewife. From this doubtless comes the mingled look of solidity,
complacency, and comfort which appears in the air of the Palace
guard, his physiognomy, and his gait, the latter being as slow and
solemn as a law-suit itself.
There is certainly a mysterious affinity between these pacific
pretorians and the building in which they live. But let not the
reader be deceived ; the Palace guard is in every way the reverse
of the National Guard, who used to assume a war-like bearing in
order to disguise his character ; the great majority of the Palace
guards are old .non-commissioned officers who can point to a
record of numerous campaigns and excellent conduct during their
time of service. Their very language is in keeping with their
bearing. The Palace guard never swears, and always expresses
himself in well-chosen terms.
Their uniform has retained a slightly archaic stamp. The
Palace guard of the present day, together with the pupil of the
Ecole Polytechnique, is one of the last representatives of the cocked
hat, which he wears, unlike the gendarme, with the point in front.
He is clothed in a tunic and trousers of black cloth with large
red stripes the colours of the Civil Tribunal and the Assize
The duties of the Palace guards consist in constant observance
of the everlasting instruction, " Keep order."
Only, as order is already kept by their colleagues of the
Republican Guard, who look after the malefactors, the judges, and
the public, the only order remaining to be kept is reduced to a
homoeopathic dose. And so, after roll-call and a microscopic in-
spection which takes place every morning in the still deserted
galleries of the Palace, the duties of the Palace guards are limited
2 5 8
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
to distributing among the public moving in the corridors a few
injunctions of which the most frequent may be reduced to three
1. "Sir, smoking in the corridors is strictly forbidden." And,
if it is an advocate engaged in finishing a cigarette, " Maitre
(ivith a smile], you know that cigarettes in the corridors. . . ."
When the culprit happens to be a judge, the guard looks another
2. " No, madam, I cannot let you go about the building with
3. On days when great criminal
cases are on and all those whom the
case does not concern want to get a
sight of the assassin, "Useless to persist.
No admission without the president's
permission or a reporter's card."
And, as the visitor always does per-
sist, the guard adds :
" Go and see the Commandant
Commandant Lunel, chief of the
Palace guards, has never, in the
course of his campaigns, been called
upon to sustain assaults like those he
has to face on the days when Pranzini>
Prado, Eyraud and their successors fill
the Court to suffocation. We need not
speak of male applicants. They are dis-
posed of with a " Sorry, sir ; but it is quite impossible, the Court
is overflowing." But would-be spectators of the fair sex and there
are some charming ones are more obstinate. On those days
the commandant has before him whole battalions of pretty women
who, though they have no valid pretext for their importunity, are
never at a loss for a plausible excuse.
The chief a gallant man is lost in regrets; he falls back on
superior orders, the crowded state of the Court ; and he contrives not
to put the fair cohort out of temper, though all the time he only
admits the authorised few.
Before becoming the amiable superintendent of the Palace
guards, .Commandant Lunel was director of the riding school
THE COMMANDANT LUNEL.
ROUND ABOUT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 259
at Caen. The services which from his great experience and con-
summate skill he has been able to render to the organisation of
cavalry remounts are of inestimable value.
It is well known that Commandant Lunel is one of our best
riders. Marshal Canrobert early remarked his abilities in this
direction, and during the Crimean campaign entrusted him with
the direction of the cavalry remount at Varna. He has subse-
quently held the posts of director at the stud farm at Pin and the
remount at Versailles. His service record is extremely brilliant.
Since 1841, when he entered the sixth Regiment of Lancers, there
has been no campaign in which he has not had a share. He re-
ceived the riband of the Legion of Honour after Solferino ; he
obtained the rank of colonel on February loth, 1871, after having
taken part in the battles of Le Bourget, Le Raincy, and Buzenval ;
and he has held the military command at the Louvre.
He was appointed to the command of the Palace guards on
July 1 7th, 1874, and to that of the guards at the Tribunal of
Commerce in the year following. He has introduced several
useful reforms into the internal arrangements of the Palace.
It must be added that he realises the ideal commandant who
is "father of his battalion," and that he enjoys the warm affection
not only of his guards, but of all at the law courts who ever come
into relations with him.
A last trait : he is not averse to comic songs, which he composes
and will sing to you, if you call upon him after dinner, in a way
which would force a smile from the most austere magistrate.
THE ADVOCATES' RESTAURANT
The Cafe Louis, called after its proprietor, is outside the Palace
of Justice, and a sort of annexe to it. It stands in the little Rue
Mathieu-Mole, consisting only of four houses, which unites the Rue
de la Sainte-Chapelle to the Quai de la Seine ; the latter faces the
shed which has been built for the steam fire-engines near the fire-
In order to get there unobserved, the people of the law courts,
who alone use the cafe, cross the courtyard of the Sainte-Chapelle,
and go out by a vaulted corridor, looking like a postern-gate, that
pierces the great building of the Correctional Courts.
260 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The cafe has only one room, the arrangement of which has
required much ingenuity. Every corner has been utilised down
to the last fraction of an inch, and the chairs and tables look as
if they were specially made to be folded up under one another
at a moment's notice. The kitchen, formed by a glass partition,
takes up one of the angles ; the counter stands half hidden in
the place left free between this kitchen and a little staircase, under
which, at the back, there is even a cupboard in reserve, used as a
pantry. The rest is occupied by six marble tables, in front of
which are benches cushioned in red plush ; in the middle of these
is a centre table with eight chairs, and on the walls are mirrors.
Here, on every Court day, come in succession or all together
crowds of twenty, thirty, or forty customers advocates, soli-
citors, ushers, registrars fresh from the Courts, almost all in
official dress who give the room the picturesque appearance of a
conference of learned men, met together to drink a friendly glass.
Those who, engaged in cases which head the list, have had to
come to the law courts at an early hour, arrive first for breakfast ;
they are the advance-guard. But from half-past twelve, when the
lists have been read through, a fresh set of faces appears ; many
whose cases are fixed to be on in the course of the day, at one
o'clock, two o'clock, or later, come to while away the interval, or the
time when the sitting is suspended in the middle, by a game at
cards or chess.
These are always the same people, divided into two sets, " the
men of the woods " who are faithful to the queen and knight, and
the men of cardboard, the devotees of whist. Sometimes a few
timidly venture on a game of piquet or ecarte, but the professors
of high finesse cast a disdainful eye upon these inferior games.
All types of players may be seen there ; and they form a study
the more curious and interesting because the peculiar character of
each comes out under the fascination of the cards, just as in the
public contests of open Court. Here may be seen the man of
methodical and regular habits, who will not pass over a slip,
acknowledging his own with sorrow, and pouncing without mercy
on those of his partners, exactly as he does in Court; the blunderer
who throws his cards pell mell as he does the papers of his
briefs ; the prig, who plays like an amateur, without interest,,
and loses his tricks one by one as indifferently as he docs his
clients' cases, in dilettante fashion ; the passionate man, who goes
ROUND ABOUT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 263
into a rage, gives one look at his cards and if they don't please
him, throws them on the table in his excitement, just as
in Court he would hurl aggressive arguments at his opponent's
head ; the calm man, conscious of his strength, whose deep
voice, more resounding than the trumpets of Jericho, seems
to exact respect from fortune as much as it frightens those who
contradict him ; the retired judge, who is not afraid to interrupt
the traditional silence of whist by comic stories, or even broad
ones ; the funny man, of over-flowing spirits, who has charming
flashes of humour, but sometimes, alas ! descends to a pun, the
besetting sin of judges and advocates; lastly, the grumpy martinet,
surly of face, who holds forth at length, lays down the law, expresses
his contempt, and sends his neighbours to sleep from very boredom,
as if he were still addressing the Court. And countless others.
Chess engages the attention of strategists, of men of exact
habits, of the fanciful, of the bold, of the prudent. There they
sit, in this war of wooden figures, looking like champions ; and
they wage the mimic fight with the same heat, the same earnest-
ness, the same ambition for conquest, and the same exultation in
victory that mark them when they struggle to save a client's
.fortunes or rejoice over a client saved.
It is a pity that suitors cannot come in person and pick out
the advocates they want in the midst of this revelation of feelings
in undress and character laid bare. They would then be able to
discover the right temperament and the special aptitudes required
for the conduct of their suits. They would be able to make their
choice with full knowledge of the man, which they can hardly do
when everything is masked under the assumed formalities of the
consulting-room. But if a layman risks himself in this crowd of
noisy, talking, singing, black-robed men, he feels that he is in the
way. He is an intruder ; they scowl at him, and he beats a retreat.
After four o'clock on week-days, and during the whole of
Sunday the place is a desert.
At the Court of Assize, when a great case is being tried, a score
of men may be noticed crowded, squeezed, wedged together in a
compartment next to the prisoner's dock, writing on their knees or
on wooden tablets placed before them. On important days at the
264 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Correctional Court they are in still worse plight ; stuffed into every
corner, bending down in the most unnatural positions, standing up
in the embrasures of the windows, seated on the steps of the dais.
Here they are engaged in scribbling on endless slips of paper,
writing away from morning to night, as if indifferent to their sur-
roundings, till by the time their work is over they find themselves,
like the companions of Charlemagne, with "stiffness in the loins,
cramp in the neck, blisters on the fingers."
These are the law court reporters. Their portraits cannot
be reproduced here for obvious reasons, but a few facts about them
must find a place in our book. Their corporation, in fact, is
one of the original corners of legal life, and one of those least
known even to regular frequenters of the Courts. The latter know
that the reporters possess in com-
mon two little rooms, the way to
which is well known to advocates
and even to magistrates, but they
know little more of the Association
of Press Reporters at the Palace
Many associations are well
fitted to attain the end for which
they have been formed, but are divided into cliques, and racked
by petty jealousies and personal dislikes. Not so the present
chroniclers of the Palace. No, the Association of Law Reporters
is not of this kind. It is not a corporation ; it is a body with
several heads and a single heart. The members often have dis-
cussions among themselves ; but however numerous and diverse
the opinions put forward, however lively the opposition they meet
with, the ultimate decision always finds unanimous support.
Formed into a syndicate, like all those who work for their living,
the pressmen of the law courts have not turned their society into
a league of comrades. They have done better, they have become
friends, united like brothers by close bonds, closer than that of
mere association, useful as that was in the first instance. Their
excellent head, Alexandre Pothey, the regretted Rocher, Emile
Corra their late syndic, Albert Bataille their present president,
Davrille des Essards, a member of the Municipal Council of Paris,
so expert in all questions of co-operation, have leagued them
together for the protection of their corporate interests, at cost of
ROUND ABOUT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
much trouble, and in spite of many obstacles. Daily intercourse,
difficulties overcome in common, kindred emotions, similar qualities
of heart and head, and perhaps also similar weaknesses, have
made them in some sort members of one family.
The two little rooms allotted to them by the authorities in
a corner of the law courts have not the convenient but common-
place air of an ordinary newspaper office. They are the meeting
place of men who trust one another, and are bound together by
the links of a deep, an intimate, and a matured affection. They
have different opinions and origins; in tastes and principles they may
be opposed to one another ; their views and sentiments are often
in direct contradiction ; they
will argue to the bitter end de
cmni re scibili et quibitsdam
aliis ; but their union is superior
to theories and doctrines ; and
the most furious opponents will
become reconciled if asked to
render a service.
They form a true family ;
the word has been degraded
by abuse, but in this case the
thing is present in all its force.
It is a real family. It takes
the young new-comer by the
hand, guides his first steps
through the Palace of Justice,
and unfolds to him the secrets
of legal life. His education
completed, it will not stop
there ; it will do more than facilitate his work ; when absent,
it will find him a substitute ; when calumniated, it will defend
him ; when ill, it will care for him and assist him as far as its
modest resources will allow. It is easy thus to imagine the
gratitude he will feel towards it, and the readiness with which
he will in his turn do good to its other members.
But what need is there of words ? Is not this book itself a
sufficient proof of their esprit de corps ?
The authors have fixed on the subject of "the Paris Law Courts ''
because they could find no other which they were so well fitted to
ALEX. POTHEY, DOYEX OF THE LAW
266 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
treat ; because the law courts have been the source of their friend
ship, and the be-all and end-all of their lives.
As one of their oldest members, M. Fernand de Rodays, has.
said, " Is not the Palace of Justice the most curious magic lantern
which man has ever devised ? " From January to December they
see it, they study it, they watch it. Almost in spite of themselves
they have learnt gradually to know it by heart. This mighty
edifice with its corridors, its turnings, its doors, its staircases, its
corners they know it from its roof to its wonderful basements.
They are by profession the historiographers and critics of its
varied world of magistrates, advocates, criminals, and supernumer-
aries, having in the discharge of their duties to watch the events
which take place there. Of everything and everybody they have
personal experiences and documents collected day by day, for
their business enables them to penetrate every day into the most
secret corners of the world of the Courts.
So well acquainted are they with the people who move between
the Rue de Lutece and the Place Dauphine that old or young,
conservative or radical, if you listen to them, their judgment is
always unanimous. In all we note the same objects of admiration,
the same objects of respect, and the same objects of contempt ;
the same scepticism and the same repugnances. Radicals and
moderates, in order to agree with one another, have only to make
a sacrifice of form ; the formulas differ, but the thought is
How, indeed, could it be otherwise ? How can they help being
tarred with the same brush ? Enforced pupils at this practical
school of psychology named " The Courts," they have acquired on
the same bench this hard reporters' bench so often invaded by
the outside world the special knowledge of which they treat in
due accordance with the rules of the law courts. They have all been
through the same experiences repeated a thousand times over, and
in consequence they have drawn from them identical conclusions.
No better proof of this can be offered than the very unity of the
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
THE TRIBUNAL OF COMMERCE
AT the corner of the Boulevard du Palais and the Quai de la-
Cite, fronting the Palace of Justice, rises a detached building, square
in shape, and surmounted by a fine cupola ; this is the Tribunal
of Commerce. The special system of jurisdiction for commercial
matters originated with the numerous and important fairs of the
The need for an expeditious and suitable tribunal to settle
disputes between merchants determined King Charles IX. to issue j
in 1563, and at the suggestion of Chancellor de 1'Hospital, the first
ordinance creating a commercial jurisdiction in Paris. The
notables charged with the duty of administering justice in this
Court were the consuls of the corporation of merchants ; whence
arose the terms consular judges, consular jurisdiction or consular
Courts, still in use at the present day, to designate judges and
tribunals of commerce.
The early system of commercial tribunals lasted till the
Revolution without any great modifications ; and the law of
August i6th-24th, 1790, which reconstituted them, laid down for
their guidance a code of regulations which largely obtains at the
We need not enter into technical details, which indeed would
be beyond the scope of this work. Suffice it to say that they
are composed of judges elected from the commercial body in
accordance with the forms prescribed by the law of December 8th,.
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
1883. The functions of these magistrates are limited in duration,
and they receive no payment. The jurisdiction of the Tribunals of
Commerce extends over the whole arrondissement for which they
are established, and is applicable to all disputes relative to com-
DOME OF THE TRIBUNAL OF COMMERCE.
mercial matters and to bankruptcies. Appeal lies from their
decisions to the Court of Appeal for the district in which they
happen to be located.
But in order to obtain a full knowledge of the importance and
powers of a Tribunal of Commerce, we have only to enter the
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 269
building which stands opposite to the Palace of Justice in Paris,
as though to enter into competition with it and obtain the custom
of its suitors.
On entering the vestibule, we are at once informed as to the
history of the building. On our right, in fact, we find, engraved on
a marble slab affixed to the wall, the following inscription :
IN THE YEAR i860
DURING THE REIGN OF
NAPOLEON III. EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH
THE COMMISSION FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF THE SEINE
VOTED THE ERECTION OF THIS EDIFICE
BARON HAUSSMANN, SENATOR
PREFECT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE SEINE
M. DUMAS, SENATOR
PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION FOR THE DEPARTMENT
PRESIDENT OF THE TRIBUNAL OF COMMERCE.
On the left is another inscription, forming a pendant to the
IN THE YEAR 1865
THEIR MAJESTIES NAPOLEON III. EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH
AND THE EMPRESS EUGENIE
VISITED THIS EDIFICE WHICH WAS THE SAME DAY MADE OVER
TO THE TRIBUNAL OF COMMERCE.
AND THE COUNCILS OF PRUD'HOMMES
BARON HAUSSMANN, SENATOR
PREFECT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE SEINE
M. CHARLES BERTHIER,
PRESIDENT OF THE TRIBUNAL OF COMMERCE
MM. BIETRY, BRIQUET, DELICOURT, CHUNOT
PRESIDENTS OF THE FOUR COUNCILS OF PRUD'HOMMES.
A. N. BAILLY, ARCHITECT.
On the right is the hall of the Council of Prefecture. In the
vestibule on the left, that which opens on the Court of the Cite,
270 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
notices of matters affecting commerce are posted up on hoards
protected by wire. The public may there get information as to
the names of stockbrokers and commercial brokers, with the dates
of their entry on their employment and the names of their pre-
decessors. Those who intend engaging in commercial transactions
will do well to come here and read the lists of debtors who have
obtained orders of discharge, of those against whom receiving
orders have been made, of those who are subject to a committee
of inspection, of insolvents and bankrupts. The names of all such
are carefully posted up ; and if a trader, when the time comes for
the settlement of his account, finds himself met with the plea that
the debtor is insolvent, he has only himself and his own negligence
By the side of these lists are posted large placards bearing, in
huge letters, the following exhortation to prudence, which, it would
seem, is very necessary in this abode of justice : T lie public are re-
quested to be on their guard against touts * (understand, agents of
doubtful character), and to entrust no business to them"
This danger is less to be feared at the ordinary law courts,
where " general agents " of this type cannot appear at the bar
in the name of their clients. Besides this, they give the place a
wide berth, doubtless because of its proximity to the office of the
Public Prosecutor. Should you ever come across them in the
corridors of the Temple of Themis, be sure that nine times out of
ten they are there to give account to a judge of instruction or the
Correctional Court of some act of swindling or breach of trust
committed against a too confiding client.
Let us enter the tribunal.
Before mounting to the first floor, the visitor should stop and
admire the magnificent double marble staircase which leads to it.
At the bottom, two stone lions represent strength, while up above '
appear four majestic statues, personifying Commerce, Navigation,
Mechanics, and Industrial Art.
The staircase abuts on the Salle des Pas-Perdus. In each of
the four corners is a date to remind us of the chief epochs in the
development of the commercial jurisdiction ; 1563 1673 1807
1563, as already stated, is the year in which Charles IX., his
majority having been solemnly proclaimed on August I7th, in a
THE GRAND STAIRCASE OF THE TRIBUNAL OF COMMERCE.
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 2/3
" bed of justice," signed the decree establishing the jurisdiction of
the judge-consuls for the traders of Paris.
In 1673, Louis XIV. issued a most important decree, forming
by itself a regular Commercial Code, which prevailed down to that
of 1807, promulgated by Napoleon I., and still in force in our
1865 is, as we have seen, the year in which the new building
was thrown open.
In the Salle des Pas-Perdus our eyes are met by a notification
of the fees payable to attorneys. 1 This reminds us that these
attorneys are not considered officers of the Court like the solicitors
and ushers at the Civil Tribunal. In spite of their ribbed cap and
Venetian cloak, they are only private individuals, without any public
status, whom the Court allows to represent parties, and recom-
mends to the choice and confidence of suitors. Those employ
them who like, and their ministry is not obligatory in any case.
At Paris, the number of agrees is fixed at fifteen. This is
very little ; and it is a matter of astonishment to find so small a
number in the first Commercial Tribunal of France. Reform in
this particular is urgently needed ; for, overwhelmed as they are
with work, the commercial attorneys find it a physical impossi-
bility to give personal attention to all the cases entrusted to them.
As a natural consequence, the small cases have to give place to
the larger ones, and the attorney is compelled to hand them
over to the direction of secretaries, whose experience and know-
ledge are not always an equivalent for the master's supervision.
The commercial attorneys, being simply agents employed by
their clients, cannot represent them at the bar, except when
furnished with special powers or accompanied into Court by the
In no case can they bring before the Court in which they
practise 2 any demands for the recovery of costs from their clients.
And there is a notice to this effect on the very door of the Court.
The whole building is covered with copies of a placard. But
this introduces an innovation intended to accelerate the course of
procedure. In fact, we find it stated here in black and white, that
as soon as the parties present themselves at the bar, their case will
- The French for this is postuler ; the agrees were formerly styled postulants or
procureurs anx consuls.
274 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
be immediately heard by a judge. Whence it is to be inferred
that judgment will be given with the shortest possible delay.
There is only one drawback, the realisation of the promised
reform has not yet found its way into practice. None the less
the Tribunal of Commerce prides itself on the rapidity of its pro-
cedure. It is the principal merit to which this popular institution
can lay claim, for it is generally very costly, and practically in-
accessible to humble folks.
It is only sensational cases, such as company suits, or claims
for forfeits against actresses which are really discussed. As for
the rest, the cases in which unimportant people are concerned, the
Tribunal has no time to go into them thoroughly in Court. It
passes them on to be settled by an arbitrator, an expert or agent
of some kind, an honest man no doubt, but not possessing all the
qualifications of a judge. If the case requires no reference to an
expert, the Court directs it to be set down for immediate hearing ;
that is to say, it is submitted to a judge who, after summoning the
parties and hearing their statements, draws up, to the best of his
ability, a judgment, which the overworked section he belongs to
will, generally speaking, adopt.
This is, in fact, the "one judge" system, which has been so
constantly denounced, even in cases where the competence of the
magistrate is beyond question.
As regards the formalities of the Court sittings, the uninitiated
who set foot in the Tribunal are generally struck dumb with
astonishment. Judges, attorneys, registrar, ushers, speak a bar-
barous tongue. The poor wretch who appears at the bar un-
supported feels crushed before he opens his lips. He is not
wanted, and they let him know it.
His opponent's attorney bullies and ridicules him.
" What is your claim ? " asks the president curtly.
" He owes me 250 francs ! "
" Before some one," says the attorney on the other side con-
temptuously. The phrase " before some one " means that the
attorney does not think it worth his while to argue the case and
will have it referred to an arbitrator.
"Before whom?" says the president; "what's this about?"
The attorney, overburdened with his heaps of papers, has com-
pletely forgotten the case. He refers to his notebook. " It is about
pens," cries he boldly. " What kind of pens ? " returns the president.
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 2/5
" Steel pens," whispers his secretary.
Says the attorney with an air, " Steel pens."
The president turns over the leaves of a memorandum book, runs
through the list of experts, and finds one who is an expert in pens ;
so here is a case settled.
" But ....," timidly objects the plaintiff.
The apparitor, a gentlemen of solemn air who wears the chain
of a sacristan, removes him from the bar, and with a sweep of his
arm motions him to be seated. It must be said, in defence of the
magistrates, that the staff of the Tribunal is absolutely insufficient.
At the Civil Tribunal there are seven Chambers ; at the Tribunal
of Commerce, with far more cases, there is only one sitting every
day. In the former there are a hundred and fifty solicitors, and in
the building opposite but fifteen attorneys. Add to the labour of
the sittings the reports to be made in bankruptcies, the judicial
liquidations, deliberations to be held, judgments to be drawn up,
meetings of creditors and shareholders, and you will under-
stand how urgent it is that the Tribunal of Commerce should be
reformed by the establishment of divisional chambers and by
increasing the number of attorneys, or, what would be best, by
making the bar really accessible to all, without intermediaries
of any sort.
Unless this is done in a few years time, the Tribunal of Com-
merce will lose much of its authority. This would be unfortunate,
for, with all its faults, it manages in great commercial disputes
to render real services to the cause of justice. Those who want a
change are the lesser men ; imbued with the spirit of association, so
strong nowadays, they will before long be driven to supersede it
by syndical chambers, courts of arbitration conducted by experts ;
this, in fact, is the true judicial system of the future, a justice which
will cost nothing, and will understand the questions it deals with.
But this is not a polemical work ! Let us listen to what goes
on in the Court. Here by chance is a case which the attorneys
have thought important enough to be argued.
These attorneys are curious beings to contemplate. They wear
black coats and white cravats ; and with a short surplice of plaited
silk, rather like the robe worn on state occasions by Roman pre-
lates, they look like bluebottle flies that go buzzing about full of
importance. They talk in stilted phrases, quite puffed up by a
sense of their merits and of the importance of their duties.
276 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
The occasional presence of advocates does not make much im-
pression on them, and they ungraciously leave to such a few little
cases which are unworthy of their lordships ; while at the same
time they lose no chance of playing their rivals all sorts of dirty
tricks. In days gone by they were even less obliging. So at least
it would appear from the following little anecdote which is told in
the corridors of the law courts. Each attorney has his particular desk
before the bar of the Tribunal ; and, when he has to speak or be
present at a sitting, he takes his place there. They were exceed-
ingly jealous of this privilege, and would let no outsider use any of
these fifteen desks. One day an advocate presented himself to
plead before the Tribunal of Commerce, but was pitilessly refused
the right of standing before any of the unoccupied desks.
" But no one is using this desk ! " groaned the unhappy man,
bending under the weight of his papers and looking for a place to
lay them down in.
" Extremely sorry, my dear sir, to contradict you," answered
an attorney in the mildest of tones, " but Maitre X will be
coming shortly, and he particularly asked me to keep his place for
him. Be sure that he also will be extremely sorry." And at every
desk which the luckless advocate approached as if it was the pro-
mised land, he found himself repulsed on pretexts equally dis-
courteous and frivolous.
The president of the Tribunal had at last to intervene to check
these petty annoyances ; and in order to put a stop to them once
for all, a sixteenth desk was erected, the monopoly of which
the attorneys could have no right of claiming.
As soon as the attorneys have finished their arguments, the
Court withdraws to its Council Chamber to deliberate on the terms
of its judgment, and the suitors who are waiting for the decision,
unless they prefer to watch one another's faces or become ab-
sorbed in their own reflections, may cast their eyes over the
pictures which adorn the hall where the sittings are held. Only
two of the required four have yet been finished. The first,
which is to the left of the entrance, represents Charles IX. es-
tablishing the judge-consuls in 1563. The second commemorates
the promulgation of the Commercial Edict of 1673. The third
and fourth will represent episodes connected with the promulga-
tion of the Commercial Code in 1807, and the opening of the
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 277
Let us now leave the hall of audience, and, crossing an inner
gallery, pay a visit to the side of the building opposite that just
We first notice two rooms, known as the bankruptcy depart-
ment, and by their side are the syndics' offices, which are orna-
mented with a printed list of forthcoming sales.
In these rooms are held meetings of the creditors of an insolvent
business ; it is here that they learn with what sauce they are to be
eaten. They are certain to be losers ; it is only a question of more
or less. " Are we in for 20, 40, or 60 per cent. ? " they ask each
other anxiously, as they enter the dreaded chamber. And, ac-
cording as the syndic's statements have been favourable or the
reverse, you will see them come out and leave the Court with
an expression of cheerfulness or dejection on their countenances.
Continuing our exploration of this side of the gallery, we
pass by the private rooms of the reporting judges ; next, in the
other corner, we come upon the secretary's office and the private
room of the president of the Tribunal, which is used for the
Council Chamber. The second story is devoted to the clerical
work of the Tribunal. It contains the registry offices, the records
of bankruptcies and liquidations, the private room of the secretary-
registrar and the pay office. Here are registered partnerships,
marriages, separations, trade marks, trade names and other
Here also arbitrators bring, sealed up, the reports which they
have been directed to make for the information of the judges, and
the registrar's clerks draw up and make copies of judgments to be
called for by the suitors. On the third story there is nothing
interesting to notice ; it is occupied throughout by the ushers of
the Court. We will not enter, as these gentlemen dislike being
THE PREFECTURE COUNCIL 1
The building opposite the Palace of Justice also provides a
home for the Council of the Prefecture of the department of the
Seine. This branch of administrative jurisdiction is but poorly
lodged. The only chamber for the sittings of the Council is on
the ground floor. It is fairly large, but plain, cheerless, and rather
1 See Ch. I. p. 7.
2/8 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
damp no doubt to remind people that the Council was established
in the month of Pluviose} It looks like the ordinary Court of a
justice of peace with no spectators.
Outside the circle of persons interested, and apart from trials of
disputes as to the validity of municipal elections, which attract
more politicians than journalists, the sittings of the Council, which
have been thrown open to the public since 1865, excite no curi-
osity. The reason is that the cases which are subject to the special
jurisdiction of the Prefecture Council are from their very nature
dull, and if they offer variety they are wanting in the picturesque.
The Council sits every day. It is divided into two sections,
each directed by a vice-president. At Paris the prefect himself
has no right to preside over the Prefecture Council ; there is already
a special president ; it is even doubtful whether the prefect of the
Seine himself has a right to a seat, like his colleagues in the
provinces. This point of law has never been settled.
The State is in this Court represented by four Govern-
ment commissaries, chosen as a rule from the auditors of the
Council of State, their nominal chief being the secretary-general
of the prefecture. One of the officials of the prefect's office acts
as registrar, and is styled secretary-registrar.
A seat on the Prefecture Council in the department of the
Seine is not obtained in the ordinary course of official promotion.
Sometimes clerks in the civil service, who have already gained a
good official position, seek and obtain the appointment; sometimes
an ex-member of the Chamber of Deputies, under a temporary
cloud with his constituents, canvasses for the post as a field for the
employment of his energies. For a seat on the Prefecture Council,
though much sought after, is very far from being a sinecure.
The members of this body are paid at the same rate as judges
of the Court of First Instance; their duties are very absorbing, and
for the due performance of them require a very extensive acquaint-
ance with administrative law. On this account admission to the
Council Board was for many years only accorded to men of ripe
experience. Not till recently have young gentlemen fresh from
the law schools and dreaming of future prefectureships been
allowed to make it the first step in an administrative career. But
young Frenchmen, if shrewd by nature or well-advised, who
1 Literally "rainy." Plu-vidse was a month in the Revolutionary Calendar of 1793.
It corresponded to the period January 2Oth to February igth.
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 279
look forward to a post of secretary-general or sub-prefect, are
careful not to begin their career by a seat on the Prefecture Council.
The latter might aptly be compared to a well or a prison. The
difficulty is not to get in, but to get out of it.
The saying " When the house goes, everything goes " would
seem to be especially applicable to the Prefecture Council of the
Seine. Every structural alteration in the Paris streets brings it an
increase of contentious business. In virtue of the great principle
of the separation of powers to which we bow it has special
cognisance of all disputes arising between public contractors and
the administration ; also in all complaints made by private persons
of damage arising to them from the acts of these contractors, but
not, says the law, if caused by the act of the administration. For
these last, complainants must apply at the building on the other
corner of the quay.
Procedure before the Prefecture Council is of a summary kind.
Notices of proceedings are given by the agents of the administra-
tive authority, and in 1889 a law was passed giving statutory
validity to the whole of the expeditious methods which had been
introduced in course of time. This law has moreover established a
new practice in cases of urgency, a kind of application by sum-
mons in chambers, which adds to the advantages already offered
by a rapid and cheap mode of procedure. But the inevitable but
owing to the special character of the suits which they have to
decide, the Prefecture Councils very frequently resort to the assist-
ance of experts. There is a regular list of accredited experts,
public engineers, civil engineers, architects, who all covet a share in
the honour and profit to be obtained from these judicial commis-
sions, where the suitors pay the bill and bear the delay. And thus,
nothing has been changed !
A ratepayer who wishes to obtain the reduction or discharge of
an improper assessment must apply to the Prefecture Council.
Under this head alone the Council for the department of the
Seine pronounces on from fifteen to twenty thousand appeals every
year, though, it is true, they have been first examined by the direct
taxation authorities, to whom they are submitted.
If you have a watch-dog assessed as an article of luxury on the
many-coloured papers which our tax-collectors distribute with a
liberal hand, complain to the Council ; it will decide on the animal's
280 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
As to repressive jurisdiction, the Prefecture Council takes ex-
clusive cognisance of offences against the law of public highways ;
with other roads it has no concern. Breaches of the regulations as
to military service are also within its competence, and owing to the
enormous compass of the fortifications at Paris it has plenty of
work in this particular.
It would be impossible to enumerate in detail all the duties that
constantly or occasionally devolve on the members of a Prefecture
Council, for, in a thousand cases, the prefect has the right, when he
thinks fit, to delegate his authority to one of the counsellors.
There are certain special cases when the Prefecture Council
must be consulted. The Council gives leave to take legal proceed-
ings against municipalities and public departments. The counsel-
lors audit the accounts of tax-collectors, when their amount does
not exceed the sum which brings these functionaries under the
direct supervision of the Cour des Comptes. 1
They preside over the acceptance of tenders for public con-
tracts, and the number of commissions in which they take part is
The member of a Prefecture Council is a true Jack-of-all-
Trades ; he renders more services than one can imagine ; he is a
functionary removable at will and badly paid. Yet to the great public,
who are ignorant of the reason of his existence, he remains a mystery.
In every session of Parliament some Deputy, a fanatic in the cause
of retrenchment, springs up and demands his extinction, and every
time he is saved by the Minister, who is well aware of his value.
However great our innate respect for the sacred principle of
the separation of powers, it cannot be denied that a prefec-
ture counsellor in many places does twice the work of an ordinary
judge ; but, unless a complete transformation takes place in our
administrative system, it is difficult to see how so useful a member
of the public service is to be suppressed.
THE COUNCIL OF PRUD'HOMMES
All round the great square hall, which was once called by a
facetious attorney the " Central Hall," are to be found the offices
of the Councils of Prud'hommes. They have been but recently
lodged in the Tribunal of Commerce, and are little special
1 See Ch. I. p. 7.
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 28 1
tribunals which determine disputes between workmen and their
employers with cheapness, smoothness, and impartiality. There
are four boards, each of which takes charge of some particular
industry. There is the board for the metal trades, the board for
chemical manufactures, that for various industries, and the last
for textile fabrics. Each board holds four sittings a month, and is
composed of three workmen and four employers one w r eek, and of
four workmen and three employers the following week. Every case
before being brought to a hearing must first pass before the board
of conciliation ; this consists of two judges, who try, with admirable
conscientiousness and patience, to effect an agreement between the
two parties who wish to go to law. Not belonging to the class
of those who merely administer
justice, but also to that of those
who pay for it, they know well
that the cheapest justice is still
heavy for the purse of humble
folk, and feel that a bad com-
promise is better than a good law-
suit. Each tries hard to impress
this maxim on the most deter-
mined litigant. So much earnest-
ness and persuasion do they throw
into their arguments that they
manage to effect an amicable
arrangement in a large number of
cases, about half of those com-
menced being ended before
them in this way. In other
cases, they give the irreconcilable
disputants a letter inviting them
to appear that day week before the general board.
On the appointed day, the workman and his employer, each of
them a good deal heated, are punctual in their attendance. The
appearance of the Court is curious. There is neither solemnity nor
splendour. Rooms with bare walls, and wooden benches for the
public ; for the prud'hommes there is a long desk, separated from the
audience by a breast-high barrier. The only ornament consists of a
bust of the Republic on a bracket. Authority is represented by a
solitary policeman. But he, being entrusted with the duty of main-
M. ALARY, WORKING PRINTER,
PRESIDENT OF THE PRUD'HOMMES
THE PARIS LAW COURTS
taining order which nothing disturbs, spends his time conscientiously
in sleep. There are neither decorations nor gowns ; the seven mem-
bers of the general board, like the two members of the con-
ciliation board, have, for sole official mark, a silver medal suspended
from the neck by a silk ribbon. There are no formalities, no
formulas ; no oath and no pleadings. Every member of the board
can speak or ask questions when he likes. At the bar all alike,
both men and women, speak in their own defence ; the whole thing
is settled in a sort of family meeting, among persons who know the
value of time and of money, so hard to earn. Those on the bench do
not preside but judge ; the parties do not plead, they explain ; and
the cause of justice loses nothing.
Yet the spectacle, with all its simplicity, is not cheering to the
reflective mind ; for what strikes one is the smallness, ridiculous
were it not distressing, of the sums in dispute. The parties here
are not struggling for lost savings or endangered capital ; it is
their bread, earned by the sweat of their brow, for which they are
contending at the ba*? \\frt*ri' gleaming eyes and empty stomachs.
Just listen to sortie of th.e cases which come before the tribunal.
Here comes a "yorkman frort) whom his employer withholds a
few days' pay. The workman* alleges that he was hired for ten
days; the employer* 'replies' *hat the time fixed was one week.
And the difference between the two sums is nine francs three
francs per day and three francs a day in Paris !
THE BUILDING OPPOSITE THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 283
Here are shoemakers who claim nineteen sous for making a
pair of cloth-boots, usually sold for eight or nine francs in a shop.
Here are cabinetmakers who have been refused forty francs for
making a piece of furniture in antique style, for which the purchaser
will pay thirty louis !
Then come little sempstresses who claim twenty or twenty-five
sous for a garment, which, by the confession even of the employers,
has taken ten hours' work. There are makers of neckties who
give their work-girls three or four francs for a dozen silk bows to
be retailed at five francs a-piece ! There are young apprentices
of fifteen with drawn features, round shoulders, weary feet, broken
down by long rounds and heavy burdens, to whom dressmakers
or laundresses refuse payment of wages amounting to fifteen or
twenty francs per month, and the long succession goes on in this
way till evening. These cases are in themselves uninteresting.
But what a mass of hidden suffering they suggest ! They do not,
like ordinary civil suits, reveal ruined families, deserted hearths,
shipwrecked happiness. They show us the human being, who suffers
in his body, who toils for something to eat, and has not where-
withal to satisfy his hunger. To sum up, a sad little Court is this
Council of Prud'hommes. A tribunal reserved for poor suitors
and petty suits, and where there is nothing to tempt curiosity.
But, stop a moment. Before this humble board, which aims at
making peace, the real struggle in progress is that between labour
and capital, the same which perhaps to-morrow may convulse the
EVOLUTION AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
THE Palace of Justice and the Tribunal of Commerce having
been visited, our tour of the law courts is now done. But we have
an instinctive desire to survey the building as a whole, after having
admired it in its details. The visitor, quitting it almost against
his will, returns, as if to concentrate in one last glance upon the
vast facade the spectacle of the marvels which he has seen within.
He seeks unconsciously to compress his scattered memories into
one final emotion, which may be the sum and substance of the
whole. After our walk through chambers and galleries, halls and
cells, we cannot leave the building we have traversed without
giving it one final look as we retire.
The first thing that seems to strike our eye as we are looking
back is a figure which eclipses all the others : that of Justice. The
Palace is no longer anything but a frame ; its inmates become
secondary characters, and, though we have nowhere painted it, the
figure of Justice seems to start forth on every side. There she is
in an actual portrait ; the painting bears its date of 1891. A
strange presentment, startling in the discordance of its features
EVOLUTION AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 285
without unity or harmony ; made of bric-a-brac, and attired in a
harlequin's cloak. The allegorical figures on which our contem-
porary artists spend so much time have as a matter of fact nothing
in common with Justice as she is. To be realistic, they should,
instead of the classic vestments, clothe their model in motley
borrowed from antiquity and touched up by a modern costumier.
A dress of the first empire trimmed with polished jet bugles in
the present fashion, beneath which the dress-improver of a year or
two back should be apparent, would suit best. At her feet, close
to the traditional balance, the place of the mirror of truth should
be taken by a magnifying glass.
The man who undertakes to model a bizarre figure like this will
have struck the true note. He will have faithfully reproduced the
mixture of antiquities and novelties, the combination of super-
annuated usages and fresh ideas, among which Themis at the end
of the nineteenth century divides her fancy. He will have shown
her as she is ; not as an old goddess trying to become young again,
but as an Immortal undergoing a slow but constant transformation.
Transformation ! It is the word of our transitional age. The
law of Heraclitus, " All things move and become transformed," has
never found a stronger application in the moral world than at the
present day, when man no longer opposes any resistance to progress.
But nowhere does the evolution of material things show itself so
distinctly as at the Palace of Justice. Here the truth of the principle
formulated by the old philosopher, and taken up again by the English
school, stands forth in the building as in what goes on there. The
mason and the advocate are both its agents, and, if the walls reveal
it to you, the pleadings within confirm the first impression.
In this last chapter we shall sketch very briefly the evolution of
legal life, so as to separate the ancient and the modern, which, in
the building we have described, live side by side with one another in
perfect harmony. For this purpose it will be enough to classify the
documents, exhibited in our work in logical order, chronologically,
and to group them according to their age or nature. Thus analysed
into its various elements, the Palace of Justice will be seen to con-
sist of four distinct Palaces : the ancient Palace, the Palace of
yesterday, the Palace of to-morrow, and the Palace of the future.
286 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
THE ANCIENT PALACE
We first find the Palace of time long past, the Palace of royal
ordinances, the Palace of presidents a mortier, the Palace of gens
du roy. Let us view its antiquity with respect ; it is contemporary
with the Sainte-Chapelle and equally picturesque. A legacy from
the judicial system of old days, it was overthrown by the Revolu-
tion, but it has arisen again and is still very far from dead. We
have seen it in all its glory, at the beginning of the legal year,
when the sceptical crowd of its inhabitants go as a body of formal
worshippers to hear the Veni Creator of the Red Mass ; and to
perpetuate the Solemn Sitting, a tradition which only endures
because it is a tradition. We have met with it again here and
there during the course of the year. Quaint costumes and quaint
usages, ratification of letters of pardon, sales by the "auction
light," taking of the oath by probationers, meetings of columns,
constitution of the Bar as a privileged corporation, with its prud'-
hommes (masters with masters under them ! ) l with right to inflict
punishment all this belongs to the past. To it also belongs the
curious cap and gown by which the French man of law of Edison's
day is attired almost in the fashion of a doctor of the age of
Moliere. The doctor of to-day appears at the bar in ordinary dress ;
but the advocate who examines him still wears the robe of Master
Pierre Pathelin. A little time ago the wearer of this robe was
forbidden to cultivate a beard ; the advocate had to shave his face
clean, and the razor might be considered an instrument of the
profession. The most curious thing is that the world of the
Palace of Justice regards these little inconveniences as prerogatives,
which it will never willingly renounce. A bdtonnier who would
not dare to cross the Seine dressed up in his court robes would
rather resign than plead in an ordinary coat. And yet the same
man would look on an English barrister's wig as intensely comic !
THE PALACE OF YESTERDAY
All this side of the Palace is more than a hundred and fifty years
behind the age ; but, though it shows us justice under its most ancient
1 The French is mailres sur mattres. It is needless to remind the reader that all
French barristers are styled maitre, not monsieur.
EVOLUTION AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 287
guise, it is not the sole representative of a past time to be found
here. There is something besides ceremonies and costumes which
belong to another epoch ; ideas, the ideas of certain magistrates
especially, belong to another age, more near to ours, but none the less
quite of the past. Is this the result of worship of the past, of educa-
tion, or merely of temperament ? We will not inquire, but this
is unquestionable ; on every step of the ladder may be found some
judge who bears about him a strange air of being behind the times.
He is as provincial in his life as a countryman who has lost his
way on the boulevards. Like the Gascon who thought himself a
Parisian because he had learnt the guide-book of the capital by
heart, he imagines that the Code contains all the rules of modern
life, nor does he take any count of present manners. The com-
promises which the world has made in many ways w r ith strict
morality fill him with astonishment and indignation.
Suppose, for instance, that a man keeps a mistress. In our
present civilisation this is certainly an irregularity. The Church
forbids it, and the Code, a defender of the family relation, has
taken the ecclesiastical prohibition as a basis for its enactments.
Nevertheless, it is common enough to see bachelors seek before
marriage the happiness to which it is the mayor's special duty to give
legal sanction. Many magistrates when seated on the bench
choose to regard all these irregular marriages as highly reprehen-
sible. When a bachelor of twenty-five appears before them, they
do not fail to say to him in a severe tone : " The information
we have received regarding you is not unfavourable ; but you often
came home very late at night ; you no doubt keep a mistress ! "
The reproach varies according to the case. If the accused has
been surprised some evening when he was killing time in
questionable society : " You were giving yourself up to de-
bauchery!" blurts out the president. If, on the contrary, the
accused indulged in what Parisian slang has picturesquely styled
le vieux collage, the judge cries out in scornful tones: "You were
living with a concubine, the woman X , and you passed her
off as your own wife ! " Between the two formulas there is a
whole ascending scale, the maximum of severity being always
reserved for the man who lives in concubinage. This old-fashioned
rigour is sometimes increased by an extraordinary ignorance of
practical matters. Certain judges of the Court of Appeal have
never got beyond the experience they acquired during their student
288 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
period (1845-1848). More especially, they do not seem to know
that money, since their youth, has lost three-fourths of its purchas-
ing power. In connection with this, there is the sagacious remark
made by the president of the Paris Assize Court at a recent trial.
" You robbed your employer of 300 francs (i2~) ; and with this you,
for a whole month, lived in luxury with a courtesan ! " And in the
same train of ideas is the remark of another president, who,
speaking of a fair leader of the gay world, said : " A woman
living alone at Paris could not spend 19,000 francs (760) in the
course of the year."
Even magistrates who are younger, more intelligent and
altogether more sensible, occasionally let slip puerile reflections
of this nature. Witness, for instance, the advocate-general one of
the most distinguished at the law courts who one day put this
question to a celebrated murderer : " You tried to make your
victims believe that you were the owner of vast estates in the neigh-
bourhood of Madrid ! You even sometimes presented yourself
before them in the dress of a Spanish grandee ! " l
This simplicity is extraordinary. It clashes with modern pro-
gress, and makes us say that the class of magistrates just described
forms yet another separate Palace, which is not that of the remote
past, nor that of to-day ; it is the Palace of the generation before
last. Bound as it were in the trammels of a procedure which is
ridiculously slow for a generation that travels by rail and talks by
telephone, these judges, eminent as they may be, cannot realise the
fact that the society which moves before their eyes is not that of
1806 ; and that though the Code remains unchanged, the world's
ideas, its prejudices, its theories and its wants have undergone a
So much for the magistrate who seems never to have lived at
all. We may pass over those who serve as links in a period of
transition and the few exceptional specimens described in the
preceding pages. Let us take a look at the ultra-modern type.
He is not the man to shave his chin in obedience to traditional
ideas. Tradition ? He thinks of it as little as a man condemned
to death thinks of his loss of political rights. For precedents and
predecessors he cares not one single straw. One thing alone
1 The French chdteau en Espagne is a phrase meaning the same as the English
*' castle in the air." This comic rascal's victims must therefore have been as guileless as
EVOLUTION AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 289
occupies his thoughts : the effect produced outside by the sentence
he pronounces, and, above all, by the smartness and vigour with
which he rallies the unfortunates who stand before him.
A cunning master of fence in these contests of wit, he reminds
one of a man taking pistol exercise at a cardboard target. He
is well acquainted with all the prejudices of the moment ; but
if he is on his guard against them, he shows none of them.
His sole object in life is to create a sensation ; only let people
talk about him and his ambition is attained. He pretends to
have a horror of the journalist, but if by chance he meets one
in the galleries when leaving Court in the evening, he never fails
to whisper a word in his ear to remind him of the exact spelling
of his name, it being often mutilated by the printer. This kind
of judge is happily not very common at the Palace of Justice. But
we must draw his portrait if only to bring out more strongly the
character of those to whom he presents a contrast. He represents
neither the Palace of yesterday nor that of to-day, nor, we may
hope, that of a day to come.
THE PALACE OF TO-DAY
Between these two varieties comes the representative of the
modern world ; the man of 1891 who is trying to let in some of the
outside air, to freshen up the stale atmosphere of the Courts, where
every one is absorbed in the contemplation of ancient texts. It is
the advocate who more especially plays this part of the vir novus.
It is he who stands in the breach against the champions of outworn
doctrines and musty sentiments. Not that he is a Revolutionary.
Far from it ; but, in spite of himself, he cannot help yielding to
the laws of evolution. He knows the people well, for he has
been among them ; he has welcomed them to his chambers, that
confessional where, though the light can enter, the secrets told
remain honourably kept. He has listened to the complaints of his
visitors, and seen their tears. He knows the sufferings of the poor
and the sorrows of the middle class ; and he is able to make them
known, and resolved to impress them on the judges who from the
height of the bench look coldly down upon the level of things in
general. At the Palace of Justice he represents naturalism as
opposed to the idealism of the Advocate-General. The Public
290 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
Advocate invokes great principles, and speaks in the name of
justice, the family, the rights of property and other commonplaces ;
it is for the advocate to uncover the sores of society, to show its
scars, to tell the tale of its misery and its griefs.
Hence come the different styles of eloquence preferred by the
Public Prosecutor and the counsel for the defence. The representa-
tive of the former still retains almost all the rhetorical and redundant
forms of the old parliamentary harangues; he is invariably inflated
and grandiose ; the advocate (we are speaking of the new school)
tries to be precise and clear, to secure attention by simplicity, and
to awaken feeling by a plain picture of the truth. The new gene-
ration is on the way to create a new eloquence, of a mathematical
type. Less ornate, but more solid than the old, it will in reality
require more knowledge and greater talent. The orator will voci-
ferate less, he will not gesticulate, but he will be more convincing.
In ten years from now the transformation will be complete. One
symptom proves it. Certain young representatives of the Ministry
of Justice have also had recourse to these simpler oratorical methods,
and their success has shown that the least pretentious eloquence is
the most effective ; that judges and jurymen are more easily moved
by analysis of causes than by declamation ; and that the report of
an expert in medical jurisprudence carries more weight than the
most magnificent peroration.
The day may come when this change will make itself felt
universally. The two sides of the bar will abandon, the one its-
grandiloquent "opening speech," the other its thrilling "reply;"
instead of these they will discuss the actual charges, examine them
seriously and wisely with the careful attention of physicians who
differ as to the proper remedy to apply. Justice will then
have taken a great step forwards ; instead of being a kind of
" cult," with ceremonial and ritual, it will become a school for the
study of moral diseases ; the Palace of Justice instead of a temple
will become the most imposing and the most august of our
THE PALACE OF TO-MORROW
The time for this change is not yet, and the Palace of which we
have just been dreaming belongs to the far future.
But what of this Palace of the future ? For obvious reasons it
EVOLUTION AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE 29 1
is difficult to be precise about it. At the present day the air is full
of reforms. In the Chamber of Deputies and the press, the most
various projects are being constantly brought forward. No judicial
incident, however unimportant, takes place without giving rise to
a crop of suggestions. But, as everybody knows, there's many
a slip 'twixt cup and lip ; between the idea of a reform,
however desirable, and its realisation. It seems pretty certain,
however, that justice is tending to become more simple, less
slow, less showy, and consequently less picturesque, but more
practical. The object of all innovations is to shorten delays
and to make justice more accessible to humble folk, that is
to those who most need its protection. The jurisdiction of jus-
tices of peace is being extended, Boards of Conciliation are
being multiplied, attempts are being made to develop the
system of arbitration. The farther we go the more marked
will be the change, the greater the modification in the outward
aspect of judicial life.
For example, it is highly probable that we shall see judges
appointed by election l and the robe abolished ; the right of
audience in Court no longer confined to advocates, or, in other
words, the exercise of the profession of advocate no longer
dependent on the will of a "Council of the Order;" this last
change alone would be the beginning of a new system at the
Palace of Justice.
Without going so far as to speculate on the overthrow of all
<l traditions," it is not rash to anticipate a whole mass of legislative
enactments which cannot fail to react on the relations between the
judges and the judged. To this number belong the reform of the
Code of Civil Procedure and of the Code of Criminal Instruction, the
revision of certain chapters of the Civil Code, and the remodelling
of certain repressive laws. The number of problems which present
themselves and call for solution is certainly beyond count. Thus
many people look on the usher, whose popularity has never been
excessive, as a useless and a costly luxury, and in the vast majority
of cases the post might be abolished with advantage. Others cannot
very well appreciate the division of labour between the advocate and
1 The election of judges existed during the Revolutionary period. As might have
been expected, it gave rise to the most scandalous judicial partisanship. It was abolished
by Napoleon Bonaparte on his accession to the Consulate.
2Q2 THE PARIS LAW COURTS
the solicitor. Others would greatly like to see a jury in the Correc-
tional Court; convinced that despite some inevitable mistakes; tem-
porary magistrates are better fitted to judge their fellow-men than
professional magistrates, who are insensibly impelled by the very
habits of their life to see in the prisoner before them only a
subject for a sentence. Even the question of the advantages of
one judge, with a jury in civil cases, has been canvassed, and
the idea has given rise to many a debate.
The phrase " as few judges as possible " has become popular,
just like the new political watch-word, " as little government as
possible." And some bold spirits have gone so far as to demand
obligatory arbitration in civil disputes. The latter acknowledge
that the decisions of arbitrators may not be always in strict
accordance with the letter of the law ; but they are pretty certain
to coincide with common sense, which is a sufficient consolation.
They also maintain that under a system of arbitration it will
be possible, without much difficulty, to ensure competence, which
they hold is more apparent than real under the present system,
where it seems the judge is presumed to be omniscient. The
suitors, they say, will, in the natural course of things, be brought
to choose those arbitrators who are best suited by profession or
aptitude to settle the difference in hand. Would it ever occur to
two men of letters to submit their disputes to a tribunal of cobblers ?
Certain literary and artistic societies compel their members to submit
all professional quarrels to the arbitration of the governing body of
the society itself, or of a committee appointed by it. Is not this a
step towards arbitration obligatory by law ?
But these are theories of reform whose practical value might
be debated till the end of time. One of them alone has the happy
privilege of obtaining the support of all who appear before the courts,
and that is the endeavour to reduce the cost of justice. Serious
efforts have been made to bring about this reform. But it is to
be feared that many years must pass away before we can hope
to see the famous principle of "justice for nothing" applied in
all its strictness. The dream of the future is the discovery of a
judicial system which, together with absolutely free justice, will
ensure the appointment of magistrates permanent or temporary
possessed in their several stations of character, competence,
knowledge, and conscientiousness. When sitting in judgment on
EVOLUTION AT THE PALACE OF JUSTICE
their fellow-men, they will have but one care, the discovery of the
truth, and but one aim, the application of the law. They will
regard the accused as innocent till the very moment when the
verdict has been given against him. And, models of dignified and
calm urbanity, they will make no partial distinction between the
mighty and the weak.
But this ideal Palace belongs not to the immediate, nor to
the far future. It is a Palace in the air.
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